Gender and politics in Bolivia: violent repercussions

A case study explaining how the passage of progressive laws in Bolivia have proved insufficient in genuinely empowering women. An unintended consequence was triggered – widespread bullying and outright violence towards women elected to office in what is still a predominantly macho society threatened by the redistribution of power.

In 2012, a new law was passed to address the intimidation and
violence inflicted upon women leaders. Yet women in Bolivia,
regardless of their political background, still face harassment and bullying.

Se los pido de rodillas, no nos maten por una silla.

Graffito from Bolivian feminist group Mujeres Creando

‘I am begging you, do not kill us for a seat.’

Bolivia women's protest

This paper is a case study – a documentation of a particular
historical experience in one country that could serve as a reference point in assessing similar initiatives to empower women elsewhere, and to advise about potential pitfalls.

It calls attention to how programmes to support women’s advocacy groups remain vital, and that more innovative ways to deal with changing existing social norms are essential for development. It also highlights the need to recognise that there are different competing interpretations of women’s rights advocacy, and that more dialogues and conversations are necessary to better define and deal with the challenges.

This paper is a contribution from Christian Aid Bolivia and its partners to ongoing discussions on Sustainable Development Goals 5 (gender equality and women’s empowerment) and 16 (peace, justice and effective governance). It is also a contribution to the Women in Political leadership Working Group of the Gender and Development Network, a membership network of UK-based nongovernmental organisations.

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