What were the fall of the matriarchy

Matriarchy without power and role rights?

From Line Bareiro


It was believed that there was a matriarchy in Paraguay. Obviously not because women came to power or the economy, but because of their immense contribution to families and because they rebuilt the country twice.

Paraguay suffered two international wars, against the Triple Alliance (Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay 1864-1870) and the Chaco War against Bolivia (1932-1935). They were devastating, especially the first that killed most of the male population. A militaristic nationalism shaped the political ideas of the country and made equality of women difficult.

According to the Directorate-General for Statistics, Surveys, and Censuses (DGEEC), there were 50.4 percent men and 49.6 percent women in the country in 2019, with a total of 35.6 percent of Paraguayan households being headed by women. UN Women and the DGEEC worked together in 2017 on the first time budget survey, which shows the difference in unpaid work in households, with women working longer unpaid periods. The working time for both genders is 46.1 hours per week. 61.3 percent of women's working time is unpaid, while men spend only 25.3 percent of their time on unpaid tasks. In the case of women, this is housework and looking after children, the sick, the disabled and the elderly. You make an immeasurable and free contribution to community work. Their great collective leadership of the folk kitchens, which has made it possible to feed a large portion of the poor Paraguayan population throughout the years of their history, was evident during the pandemic but not worthy of public leadership.

Equality before the law in 33 years

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was the only international human rights treaty ratified by Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989) during the dictatorship. The debate in the session shows us that the senators were really of the opinion that in Paraguay EVERYTHING was already in order with the rights of women in the country.

What the senators and the few strong senators at the time of Stroessner's dictatorship did not expect was that their actions would trigger the emergence of the second wave of feminism and the broad women's movement in Paraguay. A year later, the First National Women's Meeting took place under the motto "For our equality before the law". There, in the premises of the Metropolitan Seminar, the importance of the legalization of the de facto association, which is so widespread in the country, and of discrimination against women in marriage and in the criminal laws were analyzed, even going so far as to differentiate between female and male adultery and typify with more serious consequences for women. Although there had been a law on women's civil rights since 1954, which upheld discrimination and introduced the right to vote in 1961 as the last country on the continent, it discriminated against women until the 1967 constitution: Article 51. This Constitution enshrines the same civil and political rights for men and women, whose respective duties are established by law, taking into account the goals of marriage and family unity.

In the last two years of the dictatorship, the Paraguayan women’s coordination led the participatory drafting of the draft law to partially amend the civil code, which was presented in the same year as Stroessner's fall. Some advances, such as the amendment to the Criminal Code and the Divorce Act, were presented by various sectors and organized women supported the initiatives. At that time it was still an urban movement and mainly from Asunción, although there were already organized peasant women as such with priority class claims.

In 1992, equality in civil law was achieved and the Secretariat for Women's Affairs of the Presidency of the Republic was established by law. But the climax was the National Constituent Assembly. The women's forum's proposals for the meeting were discussed by all conventionally participating women who formed an intergroup of women. Equality and non-discrimination were achieved without conditions or exceptions throughout the text of the first democratic constitution in Paraguay's history. Article 48 reflects the great progress made: “Men and women have equal civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights. The state promotes the conditions and puts in place the appropriate mechanisms to ensure that equality is real and effective, by removing the barriers that prevent or impede its exercise and by facilitating the participation of women in all areas of national life ".

The first female prime minister in history was appointed and the legislative changes introduced the idea of ​​equality. The millennium culminated in Paraguay's first law against domestic violence against women. By 2018, Law 5777 on the Comprehensive Protection of Women from All Forms of Violence was passed, and full legal equality for domestic workers was achieved bit by bit in a complex process between 2009 and 2019.

International insertion

Paraguay has been an isolated country throughout its history. Paraguay's broad-based feminist women's movement was initially able to connect with the region through popular education initiatives and the agenda of world conferences. It was redesigned in preparation for the IV. World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.

First the women's secretariat and from 2013 the women's ministry achieved active participation in the Inter-American Commission for Women, UNIFEM and UN Women, as well as in the ECLAC board and in the conferences. Eventually women were appointed ambassadors of Paraguay. In addition, three Paraguayan women were elected as experts in UN treaty bodies and one of them was elected to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, where a man had also been elected beforehand.

The upcoming agenda

On March 8, 2017, the third wave of Paraguayan feminism emerged, for the first time there was a massive demonstration that grew on November 25th and March 8th. Every woman who needed it was offered legal and psychological advice in various public spaces. The demands for sexual and reproductive rights have become more vigorous, and even the style and content of communication have changed. Finally, there is now an important territorial feminist movement in four southern departments of the country.

But despite intelligent observations and publications, women's rights continue to die out in the fragile institutionality of the Paraguayan state, especially in the judiciary, which has just declared an abusive priest innocent because he only touched the chest and back of the young woman who was the social one Church led, and because the law does not require habit. Worse still, a university professor harassed a student with more than a thousand messages. He belongs to high levels of the country's judicial structure, so that the young woman finally sought refuge in Uruguay because of tax and legal prosecution. The setback in public politics became evident from 2017 with the banning of the gender perspective / theory in any material of the country's education system, and later the parity law was rejected, next to Brazil the country has the lowest political representation of women in the region.

Feminicide is no longer justified as a crime of passion, but domestic, sexual and misogynistic violence against girls and women has intensified in the pandemic. And when will it be possible to overcome illiteracy and the lack of opportunities for indigenous women? Strong, combative, diverse, working women have an upcoming agenda. They know that a better state is needed, an institutional framework that complies with the laws it passes and changes a culture that justifies multiple discrimination.
«Back to The Century of Women


Line Bareiro

Copyright: Line Bareiro