ABSTRACT

This present article investigates the processes of elaboration of gender equality policies under populist governments, focusing on the paradigmatic case of MAS government in Bolivia. Through interviews and documental analysis, the article examines how MAS applied its conceptions of “people” and “elite” to the women’s organizations that intervened in policy-making processes in the field of gender equality, accusing feminist NGOs of being part of “the elite” and praising indigenous women’s social organizations as representatives of “the people”. However, the government included feminist NGOs in the policy-making processes; which shows the existence of a contradiction between the anti-elite populist discourse and pragmatism in policy-making.

Keywords: populism, gender, policy, Bolivia, women’s organizations, feminism.

RESUMEN

Este artículo investiga los procesos de elaboración de las políticas de igualdad de género bajo Gobiernos populistas, centrándose en el caso paradigmático del Gobierno del MAS en Bolivia. A través de entrevistas y análisis documental, se examina cómo el MAS aplicó sus concepciones de pueblo y élite a las organizaciones de mujeres que intervinieron en procesos de elaboración de políticas de igualdad de género, acusando a las ONG feministas de ser parte de la élite y alabando las organizaciones sociales de mujeres indígenas como representantes del pueblo. Sin embargo, el Gobierno incluyó a las ONG feministas en los procesos de elaboración de políticas, lo que muestra una contradicción entre el discurso populista antiélite y el pragmatismo en la elaboración de políticas.

Palabras clave: populismo, políticas públicas, Bolivia, organizaciones de mujeres, feminismo.

Citation / Cómo citar este artículo: Castaño, P. (2020). Between political discourses and pragmatic policy-making: Gender equality policies in Bolivia under Evo Morales (2006-‍2017). Revista Española de Ciencia Política, 54, 39-‍64. Doi: https://doi.org/10.21308/recp.54.02

CONTENTS

  1. ABSTRACT
  2. RESUMEN
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: THE INFLUENCE OF WOMEN’S MOVEMENTS ON POLICY-MAKING AND POPULISTS IN GOVERNMENT
    1. The role of women’s organizations in gender equality-related policy-making
    2. Populists in Government
  5. CASE SELECTION, RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
    1. Populism and gender equality policies in MAS’ and Morales’ Bolivia
    2. Research design and methods
  6. EMPIRICAL SECTION: THE MAKING OF GENDER EQUALITY POLICIES IN POPULIST BOLIVIA
    1. Bolivian women’s organizations: Feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations
    2. MAS’ populist discourse on women’s organizations
    3. The (actual) role of feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations in policy-making processes in Bolivia
  7. FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION
  8. NOTES
  9. References
  10. ANNEX: INTERVIEWS

INTRODUCTION[Up]

Political science is devoting growing attention to articulations between populism and gender (e.g. Caravantes, Paloma. 2018. “New versus Old Politics in Podemos: Feminization and Masculinized Party Discourse”, Men and Masculinities: 1-26. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1097184X18769350‍Caravantes, 2018; Köttig, Michaela, Renate Bitzan and Andrea Pető. 2017. Gender and Far Right Politics in Europe. New York and London: Springer.‍Köttig et al., 2017; Akkerman, Tjitske. 2015. “Gender and the Radical Right in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis of Policy Agendas”, Patterns of Prejudice, 49 (1-2): 37-60. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/0031322X.2015.1023655‍Akkerman, 2015; Spierings, Niels, Andrej Zaslove, Liza M. Mügge and Sarah De Lange. 2015. “Gender and Populist Radical-Right Politics: An Introduction”, Patterns of Prejudice, 49 (1-2): 3-15. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/0031322X.2015.1023642‍Spierings et al., 2015) and the performance of populist parties in government (e.g. Albertazzi, Daniele and Duncan McDonnell. 2015. Populists in Power. London: Routledge.‍Albertazzi and McDonnell, 2015; Taggart, Paul and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser. 2016. “Dealing with Populists in Government: Some Comparative Conclusions”, Democratization, 23 (2): 345-365. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/13510347.2015.1076230‍Taggart and Kaltwasser, 2016), both in Europe and Latin America. However, almost no research works have looked at the processes of elaboration of gender equality policies under populism. The present research contributes to fill this gap through an in-depth analysis of the paradigmatic case of Bolivia, by testing the following twofold hypothesis: Populist parties apply their conceptions of the “people” and the “elite” to women’s organizations that intervene in policy-making processes in the field of gender equality. Some women’s organizations are accused of being part of “the elite” while others are praised by populists in power, who include the latter in the category of “the people”. However, populist parties include actors that they presented as part of the elite in policy-making processes, because of their technical expertise. If this twofold hypothesis was confirmed, it would imply a contradiction between the populist parties’ discourse and policy-making.

Insofar as the article is focused on a single case, the findings cannot be generalized to all populist governments, but the present analysis provides a better understanding of the complex relationship between discourse and policy-making when populist parties are in power; a perspective that could also enrich further research on gender and populism. The present article focuses on the case of MAS (Movement for Socialism) and Evo Morales’ left-wing populist government in Bolivia which, during the period between 2006 and 2017, promoted the most ambitious agenda in gender equality policies among Latin American populists since the beginning of the 21st century. The Bolivian government introduced sound gender equality-related contents in the Constitution and it also promoted highly innovative laws such as the 348/2013 Law to Guarantee Women a Life Free of Violence and the 243/2012 Law against Violence and Political Harassment on Women. Two kinds of women’s organizations were included by the government in the processes of elaboration of the laws: feminist NGOs (characterized by the over-representation of middle-class white and mestizo urban women), and women’s social organizations (mostly composed by lower-class indigenous and rural women). This particularly diverse landscape of women’s organizations reinforces the suitability of the Bolivian case to test the hypothesis presented above.

The article is based on the content analysis of the mentioned laws and its supreme decrees (executive regulations), documents produced by the Bolivian government and semi-structured interviews with key actors in the analyzed policy-making processes, including officials, activists belonging to women’s social organizations and members of feminist NGOs. Insofar as many of the involved women’s organizations do not explain their participation in policy-making processes in documents, interviews have been the preferred mean to obtain the organizations’ view on these processes, rather than documental analysis. The present article proceeds in three parts. The first is the theoretical section, where I review research on the influence of women’s organizations on policy-making (literature on movements’ institutionalization) and literature on populists in government. The second section explains the case selection, the methods and the research design. The third part is the empirical section, where I test my hypothesis by analyzing the processes of elaboration of gender equality policies in Bolivia between 2006 and 2017.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK: THE INFLUENCE OF WOMEN’S MOVEMENTS ON POLICY-MAKING AND POPULISTS IN GOVERNMENT[Up]

The issue of the processes of elaboration of gender equality policies promoted by populist governments is placed at the crossing of two streams of research: literature on the institutionalization of women’s movements and their influence on policy-making, and research on the performance of populists in governments. I have only found one article that simultaneously refers to both issues (Rodríguez Gustá, Ana Laura, Nancy Madera and Mariana Caminotti. 2017. “Governance Models of Gender Policy Machineries under Left and Right Governments in Latin America”, Social Politics, 24 (4): 452-480. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/sp/jxx015‍Rodríguez Gustá et al., 2017), but its focus on policy machineries (instead of policy actors) and a dubious use of the concept of “populism” (Evo Morales’ government is not considered as populist by these authors) lessen the relevance of the article for my research. Thus, the theoretical framework of the present article is based on research works on the two aforementioned streams of literature. In addition, my research adopts an intersectional perspective (Crenshaw, Kimberle. 1991. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color”, Stanford Law Review, 43 (6): 1241-1299. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2307/1229039‍Crenshaw, 1991), a theoretical approach that puts special emphasis on the interactions between gender, class and ethnicity.

The present research follows the definition of populism as a “thin-centered” ideology formulated by Mudde (Mudde, Cas. 2004. “The Populist Zeitgeist”, Government and Opposition, 39 (4): 541-563. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1477-7053.2004.00135.x‍2004: 543): it considers society to be divided into two groups, the people and the elite; it is a Manichaean, people-centered and anti-elite ideology that stresses the centrality of people’s sovereignty. As Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser have highlighted, populism never appears in a pure form but “in combination with other sets of ideas” (Mudde, Cas and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser. 2015. “Vox Populi or Vox Masculini? Populism and Gender in Northern Europe and South America”, Patterns of Prejudice, 49 (1-2): 16-36. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/0031322X.2015.1014197‍2015: 17). I have decided to follow this definition because conceiving populism as a “thin-centered” ideology allows to consider political actors that combine populism with other ideologies (such as feminism).

The role of women’s organizations in gender equality-related policy-making[Up]

Women’s organizations often play a key role in the elaboration of gender equality policies (Banaszak, Lee A. 2009. The Women’s Movement Inside and Outside the State. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Available at: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315725789‍Banaszak, 2009; Beckwith, Karen. 2011. “The Women’s Movement Inside and Outside the State”, Social Forces, 89 (3): 1064-1066. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1353/sof.2011.0020‍Beckwith, 2011; Haussman, Melissa and Birgit Sauer. 2007. Gendering the State in the Age of Globalization: Women’s Movements and State Feminism in Postindustrial Democracies. Plymouth, UK: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.‍Haussman and Sauer, 2007; Horton, Lynn. 2015. “Women’s Movements in Latin America”, en Paul Almeida and Allen Cordero Ulate (eds.), Handbook of Social Movements across Latin America. New York and London: Springer. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9912-6_6‍Horton, 2015; Suh, Doowon. 2011. “Institutionalizing Social Movements: The Dual Strategy of the Korean Women’s Movement”, The Sociological Quarterly, 52 (3): 442-471. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1533-8525.2011.01214.x‍Suh, 2011; Suh, Doowon.2014. “What Happens to Social Movements after Policy Success? Framing the Unintended Consequences and Changing Dynamics of the Korean Women’s Movement”, Social Science Information, 53 (1): 3-34. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/0539018413510989‍2014; Blofield, Merike, Christina Ewig and Jenifer Piscopo. 2017. “The Reactive Left: Gender Equality and the Latin American Pink Tide”, Social Politics 24 (4): 345-369. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/sp/jxx016‍Blofield et al., 2017). The role of women’s organizations in the elaboration of gender equality policies is often analyzed through the concept of “institutionalization”, which has been defined as “a process of social movements traversing the official terrain of formal politics and engaging with authoritative institutions such as the legislature, the judiciary, the state, and political parties to enhance their collective ability to achieve the movement’s goals” (Suh, Doowon. 2011. “Institutionalizing Social Movements: The Dual Strategy of the Korean Women’s Movement”, The Sociological Quarterly, 52 (3): 442-471. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1533-8525.2011.01214.x‍Suh, 2011: 443).

The issue of institutionalization has been addressed by several gender and politics scholars, most of whom consider that institutionalized movements have more chances to influence gender policies (Banaszak, Lee A. 2009. The Women’s Movement Inside and Outside the State. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Available at: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315725789‍Banaszak, 2009; Haussman, Melissa and Birgit Sauer. 2007. Gendering the State in the Age of Globalization: Women’s Movements and State Feminism in Postindustrial Democracies. Plymouth, UK: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.‍Haussman and Sauer, 2007; McBride, Dorothy E. and Amy G. Mazur. 2010. The Politics of State Feminism: Innovation in Comparative Research. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press.‍McBride and Mazur, 2010; Suh, Doowon. 2011. “Institutionalizing Social Movements: The Dual Strategy of the Korean Women’s Movement”, The Sociological Quarterly, 52 (3): 442-471. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1533-8525.2011.01214.x‍Suh, 2011). The presence of social movement activists in state institutions allegedly allow them to seize political opportunities that are not available outside the institutional sphere (Banaszak, Lee A. 2009. The Women’s Movement Inside and Outside the State. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Available at: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315725789‍Banaszak, 2009). The degree of institutionalization of movements largely depends on the extent to which and the forms how the government establishes connections with movements, as highlighted by Meyer (Meyer, David S. 2007. The Politics of Protest: Social Movements in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.‍2007). He considers the following forms of institutionalisation: a) policymakers’ consultation with movement representatives; b) offering of platforms to express the movements’ demands; c) creation of agencies devoted to dealing with the movements’ demands; d) funding services provided by social movements; e) use of the social movements’ rhetoric by officials; and f) inclusion of movement actors within deliberative processes (ibid.: 126-129). An extra form of institutionalisation is included in the conceptual framework of the present research to complement Meyer’s typology: the appointment of social movement members to official positions, identified by Ruzza (Ruzza, Carlo. 1997. “Institutional Actors and the Italian Peace Movement: Specializing and Branching Out”, Theory and Society, 26 (1): 87-127. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1006806908949‍1997: 113).

The institutionalisation of women’s movements has been a frequent process in different regions of the world, especially during the 1990s, when gender issues obtained growing attention from United Nations —the 1995 Beijing summit was the key event in this process. Women’s movements institutionalisation often implied the appointment of feminist activists to state agencies created to promote gender equality. When analyzing the influence of women’s organizations on gender policy, it is key to underline the diversity among women’s organizations. In particular, it must be noted that not all of them can be considered as feminist, as explained by Outshoorn (Outshoorn, Joyce. 2010. “Social Movements and Women’s Movements”, en Dorothy E. McBride and A. G. Mazur (eds.), The Politics of State Feminism: Innovation in Comparative Research. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.‍2010): all women’s organizations “express explicit identity with women as a group, use gendered discourse, and claim to represent women, [but] feminist ones also hold that there is something wrong with the status of women and challenge gender hierarchies and women’s subordination”. The feminist or non-feminist character of different women’s organizations determine their policy priorities. Other dimensions that allow to establish a distinction between some women’s organizations and other ones are their structure and their social composition (Horton, Lynn. 2015. “Women’s Movements in Latin America”, en Paul Almeida and Allen Cordero Ulate (eds.), Handbook of Social Movements across Latin America. New York and London: Springer. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9912-6_6‍Horton, 2015), a distinction that is key in the Bolivian case.

Populists in Government[Up]

Insofar as populism is based on the discursive opposition between the “people” and the “elite”, at first sight it could be expected that populist governments only include actors that they consider to be part of the “people” in policy-making processes, excluding allegedly “elitist” actors. However, existing literature on European and Latin American populist parties suggests that populist parties are rather pragmatic when it comes to policy-making, since they have also included political actors labelled as elitists.

Most European PRR parties that have reached power have done so as junior coalition partners of mainstream (and more experienced) conservative parties; which has limited their capacity to shape the policy agenda (Mudde, Cas. 2013. “Three Decades of Populist Radical Right Parties in Western Europe: So What?”, European Journal of Political Research, 52 (1): 1-19. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-6765.2012.02065.x‍Mudde, 2013: 14). By contrast, the Latin American populist movements analyzed by literature (such as Mexican Partido Revolucionario Institucional-PRI and Argentinian Peronism) enjoyed large parliamentary majorities — a situation similar to Bolivia’s MAS during the period studied here (2006-‍2017). In any case, pragmatism has been the rule in the formation of policy-making coalitions among both, European and Latin American, populists.

In their comparative analysis of Popolo della Libertà (PDL), Lega Nord (LN) and Schweizerische Volkspartei (SVP), Albertazzi and McDonnell found that populist parties in power are able to act “responsibly” in policy-making while keeping a radical anti-elite rhetoric (Albertazzi, Daniele and Duncan McDonnell. 2015. Populists in Power. London: Routledge.‍2015: 170). A similar phenomenon has been identified in the case of Argentinian Peronismo and Mexican PRI: both promoted a U-turn in economic policy (from developmentalism with heavy state intervention to neoliberalism) while keeping their populist rhetoric (Gibson, Edward L. 1997. “The Populist Road to Market Reform: Policy and Electoral Coalitions in Mexico and Argentina”, World Politics, 49 (3): 339-370. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1353/wp.1997.0011‍Gibson, 1997). Besides, European PRR parties have often governed with mainstream conservative parties —which allegedly represent the interests of the “elite”— while being responsive to the wishes of their own electoral base; which suggests that “populist parties can be discerning and sophisticated political operators” (Albertazzi, Daniele and Duncan McDonnell. 2015. Populists in Power. London: Routledge.‍Albertazzi and McDonnell, 2015: 170). Research also suggests that populists are able to change the composition of their policy coalitions: in the 1980s and the 1990s, Argentinian and Mexican populist governments growingly excluded trade unions from policy-making, replacing them by business representatives (Gibson, Edward L. 1997. “The Populist Road to Market Reform: Policy and Electoral Coalitions in Mexico and Argentina”, World Politics, 49 (3): 339-370. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1353/wp.1997.0011‍Gibson, 1997: 356-‍357), and left-wing Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa (2007-‍2017) was able to co-opt sectors of the business community which were supposed to belong to the abhorred “elite” (Taggart, Paul and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser. 2016. “Dealing with Populists in Government: Some Comparative Conclusions”, Democratization, 23 (2): 345-365. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/13510347.2015.1076230‍Taggart and Kaltwasser, 2016). Populist governments often choose some members of their policy coalitions because of their technical expertise (Gibson, Edward L. 1997. “The Populist Road to Market Reform: Policy and Electoral Coalitions in Mexico and Argentina”, World Politics, 49 (3): 339-370. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1353/wp.1997.0011‍Gibson, 1997: 366).

The mentioned research on populists in government, together with the literature on the role of women’s organizations in policy-making, allows to formulate the twofold hypothesis that structures the present research. Populist parties apply their definitions of the “people” and the “elite” to the women’s organizations that intervene in policy-making processes in the field of gender equality: some women’s organizations are accused of being part of “the elite” while others are praised by populists in power, who include them in the category of “the people”. Simultaneously, populist parties include in policy-making processes actors that they presented as part of the elite, because of their technical expertise.

CASE SELECTION, RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS[Up]

Bolivia is a key case for the analysis of the articulations between populism and the elaboration of gender equality policies, for two reasons. First, Evo Morales and MAS’ populist government has promoted the richest and most innovative gender equality policy agenda among Latin American populist governments. Thus, Morales’ government is a paradigmatic case of a clearly populist government that has promoted progressive gender equality policies. Second, the Bolivian landscape of women’s organizations is particularly diverse; which allows to analyze how Morales’ populist government related with different kinds of women’s organizations. Insofar as this is a single-case analysis, the particularities of MAS’ populism and the gender equality policies promoted by Evo Morales’ government are explained in the following section, before addressing the research design and the methodology of the article.

Populism and gender equality policies in MAS’ and Morales’ Bolivia[Up]

As explained in the theoretical section, different populist parties defend different definitions of the people and the elite. In the case of Bolivia’s MAS, its conception of the people is tightly related with the 2000-‍2005 cycle of anti-neoliberal social mobilizations that preceded the party’s first national electoral victory, in 2005. Between 2000 and 2005, a wide range of social movements (unions of peasants and urban workers, indigenous organizations, women’s social organizations, etc.) opposed the privatizations of gas production, water supply and other public sectors promoted by neoliberal governments following the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s guidance. During this period, the social movements also reclaimed the refoundation of the Bolivian political system through a constituent assembly, with the aim of building a multinational state that would protect social and environmental rights and respect indigenous self-government in their traditional territories. Peasant and indigenous social movements led the protests, but a wide alliance with middle-class sectors (mostly mestizo and white) was established, too (Webber, Jeffery R. 2011.Red October: Left-Indigenous Struggles in Modern Bolivia. Leiden: Brill. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004201552.i-376‍Webber, 2011). Neoliberal politicians were identified as the common enemy of a wide and diverse coalition of social movements and large sectors of the Bolivian society, whose demands were put together in a way that reminds Laclau’s (Laclau, Ernesto. 2005. La razón populista. Ciudad de México: Fondo de Cultura Económica.‍2005) concept of “chain of equivalences”. A Manichean division between the “people” of the “elite” was installed in Bolivian politics even before Morales’ arrival to state power in January 2006.

The alliance between indigenous popular classes and wide sectors of the white-mestizo middle classes was key in the election in 2005 of former coca-grower union leader Evo Morales as president, with more than 50 % of the vote. Even though the support of progressive sectors of the middle-class was key for MAS’ political dominance during the studied period, the party’s conception of the “people” corresponds to the indigenous popular classes, which constitute the majority of the population. Many of the movements that had led the 2000-‍2005 protests experienced a process of growing institutionalization since Morales’ rise to power in 2005. The importance of ethnicity in the MAS’ populist construction and in Bolivian politics in general makes it necessary to adopt an intersectional approach, as explained above.

Regarding the notion of “elite”, MAS built its political hegemony over the opposition to foreign multinational companies, the US government and the pre-2005 Bolivian political elite, whose political parties had governed the country from the approval of the first structural adjustment plan in 1985. The links of those politicians (most of whom supported neoliberal reforms) with foreign multinationals, together with the alleged involvement of the US government in the failed attempt of coup d’état against Morales’ government in 2008, allowed MAS to adopt a successful anti-imperialist and anti-elite discourse. Bolivian oligarchs and traditional parties are depicted in MAS’s Manichean discourse as defenders of the interests of foreign companies and the US government, which are allegedly opposed to the interests of the Bolivian people. By contrast, indigenous president Evo Morales presents himself as the legitimate representative of the Bolivian people, whose majority indigenous ethnicity is highlighted by the governmental discourse. The growing institutionalization of certain peasant and working-class movements mainly composed by indigenous people reinforced MAS’ populist discourse, in which the “pure” people who defeated imperialist neoliberalism in the streets was opposed to the abhorred elite. This is why this is a paradigmatic case of a populist government.

The present research is focused on three processes of elaboration of gender equality policies during the 2006-‍2017 period: a) the introduction of gender content in the 2009 Constitution through the Constituent Assembly, and the processes of elaboration of b) the 348/2013 Comprehensive Law to Guarantee Women a Life Free of Violence and its regulation decree, and c) the 243/2012 Law against Violence and Political Harassment on Women and its regulation decree.

One of the most significant elements of MAS’s gender equality policy agenda was the inclusion in the 2009 Constitution of a wide array of women’s rights in fields such as education, health, political participation, access to land, labor, and sexual and reproductive rights, paying particular attention to working-class and indigenous women’s needs (Rousseau, Stéphanie. 2011. “Indigenous and feminist movements at the constituent assembly in Bolivia: Locating the representation of indigenous women”, Latin American Research Review, 46 (2): 5-28. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1353/lar.2011.0020‍Rousseau, 2011). The richness of the gender contents of the 2009 Bolivian Constitution stands out among the most recent and progressive constitutions approved in Latin America, which were promoted by left-wing populist governments in Venezuela (1999) and Ecuador (2008). MAS legislative agenda is also outstanding in relation to gender-based domestic violence. The 348 Law was one of the first “comprehensive” laws (integrales, in Spanish) on gender-based domestic violence approved in Latin America. This trend has grown in following years, and today more than ten countries in the region have comprehensive laws on gender-based violence. Comparative analysis (CEPAL. 2015. Informe anual 2013-2014: el enfrentamiento de la violencia contra las mujeres en América Latina y el Caribe. Santiago de Chile: Observatorio de Igualdad de Género de América Latina y el Caribe, CEPAL.‍CEPAL, 2015) has shown that the 348 Law stands out in two major points. Firstly, it considers a particularly large number of forms of violence, including economic violence, workplace bullying and violence against women in politics. Secondly, the Bolivian Law created civil and criminal norms to tackle violence, while other laws in the region did not change any criminal disposition (Argentina, Costa Rica and Mexico). In a nutshell, the 348/2013 Law is one of the most advanced laws on gender-based domestic violence in Latin America.

The third key element of the MAS’ legislative agenda on women’s movements is the 243/2012 Law, the first law approved in the world with the specific objective of tackling violence against women in politics (VAWP), a specific form of gender-based violence that is receiving growing attention from scholars (Albaine, Laura. 2015. “Participación Política y Violencia de Género en América Latina”, Revista Pensamiento Americano, 7 (13): 95-112. ‍Albaine, 2015; Krook, Mona Lena and Juliana Restrepo Sanín. 2016. “Gender and Political Violence in Latin America. Concepts, Debates and Solutions”, Política y Gobierno 23 (1): 125-157.‍Krook and Restrepo Sanín, 2016). The aim of the 243 Law is threefold: preventing harassment and political violence against women, addressing the needs of the victims, and sanctioning the authors —with the general aim of “guaranteeing the full exercise of their political rights” by women (Article 2). The importance of the Bolivian example for the worldwide struggle against VAWP has been highlighted by Krook and Restrepo Sanín: “The Bolivian case, where a long grassroots campaign culminated in legal reform in 2012, was seminal in three respects: giving a name to this phenomenon, highlighting psychological alongside physical forms of abuse, and developing legislation to criminalize these behaviors” (2016: 127).

As explained by Krook and Restrepo Sanín (id.), the close relationship between COBOL and certain sectors of MAS (a high level of movement’s institutionalization) was key for the approval of the 243 Law in 2012.

Research design and methods[Up]

This article is based on a single-case study which, according to Lange (Lange, Matthew. 2012. Comparative-Historical Methods. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE.‍2012: 16) presents a more “idiographic insight” than comparative ones. And this is particularly useful for obtaining a deep understanding of a phenomenon, generating theoretical tools that can be subsequently applied to other cases. The empirical research follows Braun and Clarke’s (Braun, Virginia and Victoria Clarke. 2006. “Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology”, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3 (2): 77-101. Available at: https://doi.org/ 10.1191/1478088706qp063oa.‍2006) qualitative method of thematic content analysis, which has been applied to three sources: semi-structured interviews with key actors of policy-making processes in the field of gender, documents on gender equality policy produced by the Bolivian government, and the selected laws. Semi-structured interviews with female activists and officials were carried out in La Paz, El Alto and Cochabamba (three of the four biggest cities in Bolivia) during two fieldwork trips, in March-April 2016, and August 2017. Actors opposed to gender equality policies have not been included in the analysis because they did not participate in the elaboration of the selected policies, which is the focus of the present research. The set of interviewees is composed by 6 members of women’s social organizations, 6 NGOs activists, 6 former government and MAS officials specialized in gender equality policy, and 3 members of autonomous and communitarian feminist organizations —a number that has been proven sufficient to meet the aims of the research.

The selection of respondents has been oriented by two targets: obtaining the most accurate account of the elaboration of the selected policies and getting a faithful picture of the different positions of feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations on the analyzed policy-making processes. Therefore, the first criterion to select the interviewees was their degree of knowledge of these processes, not their position within their organization —the focus of the research is the elaboration of gender equality policies, not women’s organizations as such. The stance of activists on MAS’ government has been considered as well: I have included in the sample activists who fully support the government, critical supporters and opponents. Besides, the intersectional approach has been applied to the composition of the sample: I have chosen respondents that reflect the different social composition of feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations regarding gender, ethnicity and the rural-urban cleavage. Thus, the feminist NGOs activists respondents were urban, white or mestizo and middle-class, while the women’s social organizations activists were lower-class indigenous of rural origin.

The selection of the analyzed documents has been based on an intentional sampling strategy, a selection method that implies restricting the analysis to a small sample of exemplary texts (Lindekilde, Lasse. 2014. “Discourse and frame analysis: in-depth analysis of qualitative data in social movement research”, in Donatella della Porta (ed.), Methodological practices in social movement research. Oxford: Oxford University Press.‍Lindekilde, 2014). The sample is composed by the most relevant documents on gender equality policy produced by the government, the gender contents of the 2009 Constitution, the two analyzed laws and the two decrees that regulate them. First of all, I have looked at the Equality Plan of the government approved through the 29850/2008 Supreme Decree (Deputy Ministry on Gender and Generational Affairs-Ministry of Justice. 2008. Plan Nacional Para la Igualdad de Oportunidades “Mujeres construyendo la nueva Bolivia para vivir bien”. La Paz, Bolivia.‍Deputy ministry on gender and generational affairs-Ministry of Justice, 2008). The second document is the report elaborated by the Ministry of Justice in 2014 for UN Women (Ministry of Justice of Bolivia. 2014. Informe del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia sobre la Agenda de Beijing 1995. La Paz, Bolivia.‍Ministry of Justice of Bolivia, 2014), a document that reviews the main progress performed by MAS in gender legislation since its arrival to power in 2006. Thirdly, the gender contents of the 2009 Constitution have been analyzed. Lastly, I have carried out a content analysis of the 348/2013 Law to Guarantee Women a Life Free of Violence, the 2145/2014 Supreme Decree that develops the 348 Law, the 243/2012 Law against Violence and Political Harassment on Women, and the 2935/2016 Supreme Decree that develops the 243 Law. I have decided to focus on the introduction of gender equality contents in the 2009 Constitution and the elaboration processes of the 348 Law, the 243 Law and their respective decrees for two reasons. First, there are the three most important and innovative gender equality policies approved during the studied period. Second, they were particularly long and complex processes, in which both women’s social organizations and feminist NGOs intervened.

EMPIRICAL SECTION: THE MAKING OF GENDER EQUALITY POLICIES IN POPULIST BOLIVIA[Up]

The analysis is carried out in three parts. First, I explain the complex landscape of Bolivian women’s organizations. Second, I analyze Evo Morales’ government’s discourse used on the main actors involved in the making of gender equality policies (feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations), with the aim of determining whether and how the government applied its conceptions of the “elite” and the “people” to women’s organizations. Third, I look at the degree of institutionalization of these organizations, and how they were included by the government in the selected policy-making processes.

Bolivian women’s organizations: Feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations[Up]

Considering the diversity of the Bolivian women’s organizations is key for the analysis that will be carried out below. As advanced in the theoretical section, women’s organizations can be differentiated through their feminist or non-feminist character (Outshoorn, Joyce. 2010. “Social Movements and Women’s Movements”, en Dorothy E. McBride and A. G. Mazur (eds.), The Politics of State Feminism: Innovation in Comparative Research. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.‍Outshoorn, 2010), their structure and their social composition (Horton, Lynn. 2015. “Women’s Movements in Latin America”, en Paul Almeida and Allen Cordero Ulate (eds.), Handbook of Social Movements across Latin America. New York and London: Springer. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9912-6_6‍Horton, 2015). If we apply these two dimensions to Bolivia, two broad categories of organizations can be identified: feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations.

In Bolivia, feminist NGOs are overwhelmingly composed by middle-class white or mestizo urban women, while most members of women’s social organizations are lower-class indigenous and rural women, as several activists explained to me. Thus, the distinction between feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations has a clear class — and ethnic — character. Interviews with members of feminist NGOs also revealed that these organizations focused on the same policy issues of organizations of the same kind in Europe and North America (such as quotas, sexual and reproductive rights and domestic violence); for their part, women’s social organizations devote more attention to class-related demands, such as land distribution and social rights. Regarding structure, most Bolivian feminist NGOs are small organizations where experts in gender policies are numerous, while women’s social organizations have thousands of members, most of whom are not specialized in gender issues.

During the 1990s, the number of women’s rights NGOs multiplied in Latin America, due to the availability of abundant funds from international cooperation agencies (Monasterios, Karin. 2007. “Bolivian Women’s Organizations in the MAS Era”, NACLA Report on the Americas, 40 (2): 33-37. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/10714839.2007.11722314‍Monasterios, 2007). They achieved outcomes such as the introduction of women’s rights in national constitutions, the creation of official bodies responsible for the implementation of gender equality policies and, in some countries, the introduction of gender quotas (Eckstein, Susan. 2001. Poder y protesta popular: movimientos sociales latinoamericanos. Ciudad de México: Siglo XXI.‍Eckstein, 2001). These NGOs reached high levels of institutionalization —for example, in Bolivia a former feminist activist was part of Sánchez de Lozada’s neoliberal government between 1993 and 1995. “Autonomous” feminists denounced the growing focus of so-called “institutional” feminists on their relations with foreign NGOs and states, together with the participation to United Nations Women conferences, to the detriment of street activism and the attention to the demands of popular women (Horton, Lynn. 2015. “Women’s Movements in Latin America”, en Paul Almeida and Allen Cordero Ulate (eds.), Handbook of Social Movements across Latin America. New York and London: Springer. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9912-6_6‍Horton, 2015), a criticism expressed by members of two autonomous feminist organizations who were interviewed for this research. “Institutional” feminists have also been accused of exclusively focusing on the interests of middle-class white and heterosexual women (Grupo de Mujeres Ixchel. 2011. “Hacia la construcción de un feminismo descolonizado”. Available at: https://bit.ly/36zlJHl‍Grupo de Mujeres Ixchel, 2011; Lugones, María. 2016. “Hacia un feminismo descolonial”, La Manzana de la Discordia, 6 (2): 105-117. Available at: https://doi.org/10.25100/lamanzanadeladiscordia.v6i2.1504‍Lugones, 2016). This bad image of feminist NGOs among wide sectors of the Bolivian Left explains why they were presented as part of the elite by Morales’ government, as it will be analyzed below.

In the Bolivian context, the concept of “social organizations” includes a wide range of organizations composed by popular-classes individuals, mostly unions and indigenous organizations. The present research focuses on women-only social organizations, such as Bartolina Sisa National Confederation of Peasant, Indigenous, and Native Women of Bolivia (broadly known as “Bartolinas’), the National Federation of Paid Bolivian Household Workers (FENATRAHOB) and the National Confederation of Indigenous Women of Bolivia. Social organizations have traditionally been particularly strong in Bolivia and constituted a major support for MAS’ government, as expressed by members of Bartolinas and other peasant social organizations who were interviewed for the present research. Since 2005 they experienced different forms of institutionalization, such as activists’ integration in government and parliament (as ministers, officials and MPs), participation in governmental consultations for the elaboration of policies (Meyer, David S. 2007. The Politics of Protest: Social Movements in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.‍Meyer, 2007). For a long time, women’s social organizations such as “Bartolinas” could be considered as non-feminist, following Outshoorn’s (Outshoorn, Joyce. 2010. “Social Movements and Women’s Movements”, en Dorothy E. McBride and A. G. Mazur (eds.), The Politics of State Feminism: Innovation in Comparative Research. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.‍2010) —for instance, they used to oppose the right to abortion. However, they have evolved towards a more clearly feminist stance, as the analysis will show. The Association of Female Councilwomen and Majors of Bolivia (ACOBOL) is a slightly different kind of women’s social organization, because some middle-class experts in gender play an important role. However, ACOBOL is a big organization that includes councilwomen from all over the country, most of whom are indigenous, which clearly distinguishes it from feminist NGOs.

The following table shows the feminist NGOs and women’s social organization that played the most important role in the policy-making processes analyzed in this article.

Table 1.

Bolivian women’s organizations

Feminist NGOs Women’s social organizations Coalitions
Women’s Coordination Association of Female Councilwomen and Majors of Bolivia (ACOBOL) Women Present in History: coalition where both kinds of women’s organizations gathered to influence the elaboration of the 2009 Constitution
Gregoria Apaza Foundation Bartolina Sisa Federation of Peasant and Indigenous Women (‘Bartolinas’)
La Paz Foundation
SEPROSI
AMUPEI
Juana Azurduy Centre for Women’s Promotion

Source: own elaboration.

MAS’ populist discourse on women’s organizations[Up]

The 2008 Equality Plan was the only comprehensive national plan on gender equality approved by Morales’ government, and it established both the policy priorities and the theoretical framework of its gender equality agenda. Its complete title is National Plan for the Equality of Opportunities “Women Building the New Bolivia to Live Well” (Government of Bolivia. 2008. Plan para la igualdad de oportunidades “Mujeres construyendo la nueva Bolivia para vivir bien”. La Paz, Bolivia.‍Government of Bolivia, 2008). The most relevant section of the plan is the 16-pages conceptual framework, written by the communitarian feminist activist Julieta Paredes. The conceptual framework devotes a whole section to criticize the so-called “neoliberal” gender equality policies that were applied before MAS’s arrival to power. The document recognizes that women’s rights experienced some progress during the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, but it underlines that “some women benefited more than others” from legal reforms such as quotas, referring to white middle-class women as the main beneficiaries of pre-MAS gender equality policies (ibid.: 8). The class- and ethnic-based divisions that exist among women are underlined by the document, taking the example of the domestic work: “Middle and higher-class women still benefit from the manual and domestic work performed by indigenous poor women […]. Also between women, there are relations of power and exploitation, relations constituted by ethnic —and class— belonging” (id.).

The criticism to feminist NGOs is explicit: the document affirms that women’s NGOs advocate “gender equity, a concept that intends to create the idea that it is possible to equalize the roles attributed by patriarchy to women and men” (ibid.: 9), while the aim of the feminist struggle should be to “overcome the gender system, as a historic and cultural product” (id.). The Plan underlines the supposed alliance of feminist NGOs with pre-MAS’ neoliberal governments, establishing a direct link between feminist NGOs and MAS’ concept of “the elite”. The Plan also criticizes the mobilization strategies of feminist NGOs, their supposed pretension to represent all women, and their link with international cooperation:

[NGOs] translated the demands and negotiations to the lobbies of the meeting venues and conventions of politicians, getting partial concessions which had a minor relevance for the real situation of popular-class women and indigenous women. [The indigenous women] did not feel represented by those organizations, which assumed a role of representative [of all women] and mediators with the state and the international cooperation […]. Indigenous and popular women […] saw how these same [middle-class] women were part of the powers that they [the indigenous and popular women] held responsible for their situation of impoverishment (ibid.: 10)

The italics are the author’s.

‍[1]
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In addition, the conceptual framework of the Plan underlines that the “gender equity public policies [promoted by feminist NGOs] ended up becoming actions to neutralize the unrest and popular frustration —particularly women’s—, with a minimal outcome if compared with the [negative] effects of the structural adjustment policies” (id.). This fragment implies accusing feminist NGOs of being accomplices of the neoliberal policies promoted by Bolivian governments in the 1990s.

The MAS’ populist rhetoric reflected in the Equality Plan devotes a very different treatment to social organizations of peasant and indigenous women: they are presented as representatives of “the people” in the field of gender policy. The preface of the Plan (written by Evelyn Ágreda Rodríguez, who was at that time deputy minister of gender and generational affairs) affirms that the Equality Plan is “the product of a long dialogue process between the national government and the women’s social organizations from all around the country” (ibid: 8). This statement establishes the following parallel: the direct relation that the populist leader (Evo Morales) is supposed to have with the Bolivian people (García Linera, Álvaro. 2006. “El evismo: lo nacional-popular en acción.”Osal, 7 (19): 1-9.‍García Linera, 2006) is similar to the tight relation existing between the gender-related authorities of the government and women’s social organizations (whose indigenous and popular-class social composition corresponds to MAS’ idea of the “people”). Therefore, the populist scheme is applied to women’s social organizations, which are attributed the position of “the people”, while there is no reference to feminist NGOs in the preface of the Plan. In conclusion, the 2008 Equality Plan establishes a link between feminist NGOs and the neoliberal political elite that the populist discourse of the MAS considers as its political rival, and conceals the role of these organizations in the elaboration of gender equality policies in Bolivia. By contrast, the positive role of women’s social organizations in this field is emphasized, and they are presented as the incarnation of MAS’ notion of the “people” in this terrain of policy-making.

The second gender equality-related document included in the analysis is the report elaborated by the Bolivian ministry of justice for UN Women in 2014 (Ministry of Justice of Bolivia. 2014. Informe del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia sobre la Agenda de Beijing 1995. La Paz, Bolivia.‍Ministry of Justice of Bolivia, 2014). The ministry did not begin to draft the report until three months before the deadline imposed by the Beijing Agenda, because ministry officials considered that Bolivia did not need to report back to an international organization —as one gender consultant who worked for the ministry at that moment explained to me. The hostility towards any form of foreign intervention in Bolivian governance is related with a populist view in which the national elite is directly connected with multinational companies and the US government. At the end of the day, the report was written and sent to UN Women, but the ministry manifested its discontent by including the following paragraph: “The report does not necessarily meet the demands and incomplete international indexes [sic]. By contrast, it intends to show that the new development policy [of Bolivia] has allowed to achieve substantial progress […]. The achievements made so far have gone further than the [targets of the] indexes proposed by international platforms” (ibid: 1).

The report places the MAS government’s gender equality policies within the wider framework of its populist left-indigenist political project, recalling the important role that women’s social organizations played in the 2000-‍2005 anti-neoliberal mobilizations (ibid.: 1-2). Hereafter, the report highlights the role played by women belonging to indigenous and peasant social organizations in the Constituent Assembly (2006-‍2009), establishing a symbolic identification between these organizations and MAS’ concept of “the people”, where the indigenous hold the central role:

88 women [participated in the Constituent Assembly], mostly indigenous; those women had only primary education but they were in the first ranks of the mobilisations and the resistance to neoliberalism, they became members of the Assembly following the mandate of their ayllu [traditional indigenous form of political organization at the local level], their community and their organizations (ibid.: 2).

The major role supposedly played by women’s social organizations in MAS-led political project (usually known as the “process of change’) is also emphasized in the following fragment of the ministerial report: “Social organizations […] are an active actor in the process of change, and in the elaboration, implementation and socialization of laws and policies” (ibid.: 17).

There is only one reference to feminist NGOs in the report, and it is a highly critical one: “The Plurinational State of Bolivia has advanced much more than what is demanded in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action thanks to “depatriarchalization” —a process to which the [feminist] NGOs and the churches have contributed little” (id.).

Not only the report conceals the role that feminist NGOs actually played in the elaboration of gender equality policies, but they are placed at the same level of Bolivian churches, which have been fierce opponents to legislative progress on women’s rights in Bolivia. In conclusion, the report sent by the ministry of justice to UN Women strongly highlighted the role played by women’s social organizations in the elaboration of gender equality policy, linking it to the wider struggle of Bolivian popular classes against neoliberalism —a rhetorical move that presents women’s social organizations as the incarnation of the MAS’ conception of the “people” in the field of gender equality policies. By contrast, NGOs’ real role in the elaboration of gender equality laws and regulations is completely hidden by the report.

In addition to governmental documents on gender equality policies, I have analyzed the gender contents in the 2009 Constitution, the 348 Law, the 243 Law, and their respective regulation decrees. Social organizations are present all along the text of the 2009 Constitution (Constituent Assembly of Bolivia. 2009. Constitución del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia. La Paz, Bolivia.‍Constituent Assembly of Bolivia, 2009: articles 199.II, 209, 210.I, 210.III, 298.II.14, 300.I.12 and 374.II), in addition to several mentions to indigenous economic organizations, while NGOs are mentioned only twice (ibid.: articles 298.II.15 and300.I.13). In addition, the article “Indigenous Rights in the New Political Constitution of the State, in the Avant-Garde of Human Rights”, which was published together with the official version of the Constitution, highlights that the Constitution was the product of the work of social organizations, including women’s ones. There is no reference to NGOs in the article. In this case, the populist influence is manifested through the celebration of the political role of social organizations (most of whom support MAS) and the conceal of feminist NGOs’ role.

Regarding the 348 Law, the general stance of this law on social organizations and feminist NGOs is set in its article 15: “Social organizations and organizations of civil society women will exert participation and social control within the framework of the corresponding law, participating in the design, evaluation and management of the policies of prevention, attention and protection to women” (Parliament of Bolivia. 2013. Ley 348 para garantizar a las mujeres una vida libre de violencia. La Paz, Bolivia.‍Parliament of Bolivia, 2013: art. 15).

Table 2.

Main references to women’s organizations in policy documents and norms

Policy document/ Norm References to feminist NGOs References to women’s social organizations
2008 Equality Plan NGOs advocate “gender equity, a concept that intends to create the idea that it is possible to equalize the roles attributed by patriarchy to women and men” (p. 9).
“The distortion of the concept [of gender] during the neoliberal period led women’s organizations (mostly gathered in NGOs supported by international cooperation) to follow strategies that were far away from mobilizing in the streets and putting pressure on the state” (p. 10).
“Indigenous and popular women […] saw how these same [middle-class] women were part of the powers that they [the indigenous and popular women] held responsible for their situation of impoverishment” (p. 10).
“Gender equity public policies [promoted by feminist NGOs] ended up becoming actions to neutralize the unrest and popular frustration —particularly women’s—, with a minimal outcome if compared with the [negative] effects of the structural adjustment policies” (p. 10).
The Equality Plan is “the product of a long dialogue process between the national government and the women’s social organizations from all around the country” (p. viii).
2014 ministry of justice report for UN Women “The Plurinational State of Bolivia has advanced much more than what is demanded in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action thanks to “depatriarchalization” —a process to which the [feminist] NGOs and the churches have contributed little” (p. 17). “Social organizations […] are an active actor in the process of change, and in the elaboration, implementation and socialization of laws and policies” (p. 17).
2009 Constitution References in articles 298.II.15 and 300.I.13. References in articles 199.II, 209, 210.I, 210.III, 298.II.14, 300.I.12, 374.II.
348 Law “Social organizations and organizations of civil society women [NGOs] will exert participation and social control within the framework of the corresponding law” (article 15). “Social organizations and organizations of civil society women [NGOs] will exert participation and social control within the framework of the corresponding law” (article 15).
2145 Supreme Decree “Social organizations and organizations of civil society women” (article 11). “Social organizations and organizations of civil society women” (article 11).
243 Law No reference References to the “organized civil society” (articles 6.e and 6.f).
Reference to “political and social organization” (Fourth Transitory Disposition).
2935 Supreme Decree No reference Inclusion of ACOBOL in the Mechanism for the Prevention and Immediate Attention (article 5.III.b)

Source: Own elaboration.

Insofar as “organizations of civil society women” is an alternative way to denominate feminist NGOs, the 348 Law is the only gender-related official document analyzed here that recognizes the positive role played by feminist NGOs in the elaboration of gender equality policies. Other articles of the Law refer to “women’s organizations and institutions” (ibid.: art. 26.I.4), “organized women” (ibid.: art. 30) and “women’s organizations” (ibid.: art. 50.II.8), terms that seem to include both feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations. In the same vein, article 11 of the 2145 Supreme Decree that developed the 348 Law uses the formulation “social organizations and organizations of civil society women” (Government of Bolivia. 2014. Decreto Supremo 2145/2014. La Paz, Bolivia.‍Government of Bolivia, 2014: art. 11). Thus, the legislation on gender-based domestic violence is an exception to the generalized conceal or stigmatization of feminist NGOs in official documents on gender. This exception can be explained for three reasons. First, most of the 348 Law and its decree was written by NGOs. Second, legal norms are written in a juridical style that makes it difficult to introduce strong ideological affirmations, which is easier to do in governmental documents that are not norms as such (for example, plans). Lastly, the state needs the collaboration of feminist NGOs for the implementation of the highly complex legislation on domestic gender-based violence, which explains the frequent positive references to NGOs in the 348 Law and its regulation decree. As argued by Gibson (Gibson, Edward L. 1997. “The Populist Road to Market Reform: Policy and Electoral Coalitions in Mexico and Argentina”, World Politics, 49 (3): 339-370. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1353/wp.1997.0011‍1997), technical expertise is one of the reasons that leads populist governments to include supposedly “elitist” organizations in their policy-making coalitions.

Regarding legislation on violence against women in politics (VAWP), the 243 Law and its 2935 Supreme Decree include several positive mentions to the “organized civil society” which in this context refer to the women’s social organization ACOBOL (Parliament of Bolivia. 2012. Ley contra la violencia y el acoso político hacia las mujeres. La Paz, Bolivia.‍Parliament of Bolivia, 2012: arts. 6.e and 6.f). This is related to the fact that the mentioned norms attribute to ACOBOL a certain competence in preventing VAWP. The importance of social organizations in the struggle against VAWP in Bolivia is also reflected in the 243 Law, which establishes that all “political and social organizations” must introduce in their inner regulations dispositions oriented towards the prevention and sanction of violence against women within the organization (ibid.: 4th Transitory Disposition). There is no reference to NGOs in the mentioned norms of VAWP, even though they played a major role in their elaboration, as I explain below.

The (actual) role of feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations in policy-making processes in Bolivia[Up]

The MAS-promoted 2009 Constitution includes a wide range of dispositions related to women’s rights, with a focus on indigenous and working-class women. The activists and former government officials who were interviewed for this research offer a similar view of the process of elaboration of these gender-related contents. One former MAS MP explained to me that the relations between middle-class feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations were conflictual during the first term of Evo Morales in government (2006-‍2010), because women belonging to social organizations considered that the demands promoted by feminist MPs and activists were “middle-class Western issues” (Interview 3). However, the relations between both sectors gradually improved in the context of the Constituent Assembly (2006-‍2009), as both women’s social organizations and feminist NGOs collaborated to promote the introduction of progressive gender contents in the new Constitution. To this end, feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations established an ad hoc alliance denominated ‘Women Present in History’ —which reminds Gibson’s notion of “marriage of convenience” between different policy actors (Gibson, Edward L. 1997. “The Populist Road to Market Reform: Policy and Electoral Coalitions in Mexico and Argentina”, World Politics, 49 (3): 339-370. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1353/wp.1997.0011‍Gibson, 1997: 360). An activist who had a major role in that process said that: “[‘Women Present in History’] was composed by more than 500 organizations, it was as collective of more than 80000 women who took actively part in the construction of proposals for the Constitution” (Interview 14).

The participation of both kinds of movements to the constituent process fits one of the forms of institutionalization identified by Meyer (Meyer, David S. 2007. The Politics of Protest: Social Movements in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.‍2007), namely, consultations with movements’ activists for the elaboration of policies. As explained by Ewig (Ewig, Christina. 2018. “Forging Women’s Substantive Representation: Intersectional Interests, Political Parity, and Pensions in Bolivia”, Politics and Gender, 14 (3): 433-459. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1743923X18000211‍2018), the empowerment of indigenous women since Morales’ first national electoral victory in 2005 forced middle-class feminist activists to closely work with them. The rapprochement between feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations initiated during the constitutional process continued when MAS’ government included both kinds of women’s organizations in policy-coalitions for the elaboration of gender equality-related laws, as further explained below. Even though women’s social organizations are formally autonomous from the government, Bartolinas (the most important one) keeps tight links with MAS and Morales’ government —many bartolinas were MAS MPs or held ministries and other high offices since Morales’ arrival to power, a strong form of institutionalization conceptualized by Ruzza (Ruzza, Carlo. 1997. “Institutional Actors and the Italian Peace Movement: Specializing and Branching Out”, Theory and Society, 26 (1): 87-127. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1006806908949‍1997: 113). According to autonomous feminist activist María Galindo, bartolinas have been “co-opted” by MAS (Ewig, Christina. 2018. “Forging Women’s Substantive Representation: Intersectional Interests, Political Parity, and Pensions in Bolivia”, Politics and Gender, 14 (3): 433-459. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1743923X18000211‍Ewig, 2018, 444), following a typically populist dynamic. Thus, the growing proximity between feminist NGOs and Bartolinas in the constituent process implied also a closer relation between feminist NGOs and the government, due to the tight connection between Bartolinas and Morales’ executive.

Regarding the 348/2013 Law on gender-based violence, most interviewees pointed out that it was the joint work of feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations which allowed the approval of the law, but NGOs played the leading role in the process (Interviews 2, 3, 5, 6). One activist of the Women’s Coordination told me that the former leader of Bartolinas was initially opposed to the 348 Law because, according to her, that law would “allow to put in prison our sons, our brothers, our comrades” (Interview 14). However, the female MAS MPs belonging to Bartolinas eventually supported the Law following president Morales’ orders. For her part, an activist belonging to another feminist NGO based in La Paz told me the following regarding Bartolinas: “[They] did not want to have much to do with the laws that we [feminist NGOs] made. They thought that they must do it [elaborate the laws] themselves, but as they didn’t do it, we did” (Interview 13).

However, this activist recognized that some bartolinas attended the meetings where feminist activists elaborated the draft 348 Law, and both the Bartolinas Federation and other female social organizations made “some contributions” to the draft law (Interview 13). Again, both kinds of organizations experienced a process of institutionalization by taking part in the discussion and drafting of the law. Most respondents affirmed that the elaboration and approval of the 348 Law was the consequence of a joint work of feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations, even though NGOs activists were responsible for the drafting of the norm. An autonomous feminist explained this apparent contradiction as follows: “We are fundamentally an oral culture. […]. The comrades of the social organizations have not written the law as such […]. The government convoked NGOs, technicians, specialists, lawyers” (Interview 8).

Three interviewees belonging to feminist NGOs explained that the first draft of the 348 Law was written between 2011 and 2013 by a group composed by feminist NGOs such as “Gregoria Apaza” Foundation, La Paz Foundation, SEPROSI, AMUPEI and the “Juana Azurduy” Centre —the coalition of feminist NGOs Women’s Coordination got involved in the final stage of the process (Interviews 14, 11, 10). The role of women’s social organizations in the elaboration of the 348 Law was highlighted by respondents such as one Bartolinas member (Interview 4), who told me that her organization played “a major role” in it. For her part, one former minister who was pivotal in the approval of the law explained to me that women’s social organizations took part in the meetings organized by the Women’s Coordination all over Bolivia to discuss the contents of the norm (Interview 6). One feminist activist who knows well the process that led to the approval of the 348 Law manifested her satisfaction with the fact that women belonging to social organizations viewed the norm as their own, regardless of their effective involvement in the technical task of drafting it (Interview 14).

Concerning the 243/2012 Law against Violence and Political Harassment on Women, all respondents inquired stated that the women’s social organization ACOBOL was the key actor both in the drafting of the law and the campaign for its approval. Specialized literature (Krook, Mona Lena and Juliana Restrepo Sanín. 2016. “Gender and Political Violence in Latin America. Concepts, Debates and Solutions”, Política y Gobierno 23 (1): 125-157.‍Krook and Restrepo Sanín, 2016) has also highlighted the role of ACOBOL in the drafting of the 243 Law, while a former minister who was interviewed for the present research pointed out that the NGO Women’s Coordination also lobbied for the passing of the norm (Interview 1). ACOBOL elaborated a first draft law on VAWP in 2001, and it submitted it to the Bolivian Parliament, but the draft was discussed in Parliament for the first time in 2006, when MAS won the majority. According to the account provided by one Women’s Coordination activist, ACOBOL led a Committee for the Law on Political Violence, in which councilwomen and MPs took part (Interview 14). This corresponds to Meyer’s form of institutionalization consisting in offering of platforms to express the movements’ demands. In short, the 243 Law was mostly a consequence of the campaigning of the social organization ACOBOL, but it was supported by several feminist NGOs. The symbiotic relation between both kinds of actors —which had traditionally kept rather conflictual relations— was described in the following terms by one gender consultant who used to work for the deputy ministry of equality of opportunities: “The NGOs contributed to the elaboration of gender equality policies with money, the social organizations contributed with political legitimacy” (Interview 21).

Table 3.

Participation of feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations in policy-making processes

Feminist NGOs Women’s social organizations
2009 Constitution Participation in the alliance “Women Present in History” to elaborate proposals on gender equality for the Constitution (interview, feminist activist and former MP). Participation in the alliance ‘Women Present in History’ to elaborate proposals on gender equality for the Constitution (interview, feminist activist and former MP).
348 Law and 2145 Supreme Decree
  • Gregoria Apaza Foundation, La Paz Foundation, SEPROSI, AMUPEI and the “Juana Azurduy” Centre wrote the first draft between 2011 and 2013 (interviews, 3 feminist activists).

  • Feminist NGOs elaborated the draft law and decree, and pushed for their approval (interviews, 3 feminist activists).

  • Bartolinas MPs supported the Law in Parliament.

  • Some members of women’s social organizations attended the meetings organised by feminists to elaborate and promote the 348 Law (interview, Bartolinas’ member).

  • Bartolinas and other female social organizations made “some contributions” to the draft law (interview, feminist activist).

243 Law and 2935 Supreme Decree The Women’s Coordination pushed to pass the law (interview, former minister).
  • ACOBOL was the key actor in the elaboration of the law and the campaign for its approval (several interviews with feminist NGOs activists and ACOBOL members).

  • ACOBOL led a Committee for the Law on Political Violence, in which councilwomen and MPs took part (interview, Women’s Coordination activist).

Source: prepared by the author.

In conclusion, both feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations played an important role in the elaboration of the gender equality contents of the 2009 constitution, the 348 Law, the 243 Law and their respective supreme decrees, because both kinds of organizations were included by Evo Morales’ government in policy-making coalitions.

FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION[Up]

This article has looked at the contradictions between discourse and policy-making in the process of elaboration of gender equality policies by populist governments; an issue that had not been thoroughly addressed by political science, yet. Previous research on the performance of populist in government in Europe and Latin America had suggested that populist parties are reflexive political actors able to include a wide range of actors in their policy coalitions, while keeping a populist anti-elite rhetoric. This hypothesis has been tested in the case of the elaboration of gender equality policies by MAS and Evo Morales’ populist government in Bolivia during the 2006-‍2017 period. This is a paradigmatic case of a populist government that has promoted ambitious gender equality policies in a particularly diverse landscape of women’s organizations, which included mostly middle-class and white feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations overwhelmingly composed by lower-class indigenous women.

The analysis has allowed to confirm the twofold hypothesis. Firstly, left-wing populist MAS and Evo Morales’ government applied their conception of the “people” and the “elite” to the women’s organizations that participated in the three analyzed processes of policy-making in the field of gender equality during the 2006-‍2017 period: the gender-related contents of the 2009 Constitution, the 348 Law on domestic gender-based violence and its supreme decree, and the 243 Law on violence against women in politics and its supreme decree. In the three policy-making processes, MAS’ discourse suggested that feminist NGOs belong to the neoliberal “elite” against which the MAS populist political project had been built; while social organizations were exalted as the incarnation of the “people” in the field of gender equality policy. Secondly, both kinds of women’s social organizations were allowed to participate in the legislation on gender equality; which shows a high level of institutionalization of both feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations. The political support from women’s social organizations was key for the approval of the mentioned norms, but feminist NGOs played the major role in drafting them.

The case study of Bolivia seems to confirm the findings of previous research on populist in government; but it does so in the field of gender equality policies that had not previously been the focus of this literature. Populist leaders promise their electoral basis (potentially, the whole “people”) that they will govern in defense of the people’s interests, which populist parties define as opposed to those of the “elite”. However, this simplistic scheme is difficult to apply to the complex terrain of policy-making, where a great diversity of actors comes into play. When it comes to policy-making, populist leaders find out that the policies that they intend to enact and implement to respond to the people’s demands (or at least to what the populists consider to be the people’s demands) hardly ever can be designed and implemented without involving a diversity of actors. Populists assume that the “people” and the organizations that supposedly represent it have the needed knowledge to design and implement the policies that would meet the people’s demands, but this is not obvious the case. This forces populist parties to turn to policy actors that the populists themselves have previously defined as “elitists”. Non-populist parties do not encounter this problem, because they do not exclude any policy actor a priori.

In addition, the present research confirms the findings of previous works on women’s movements’ institutionalization, and the relation between institutionalization and impact on policy. Several authors specialized in gender and politics (e.g. Banaszak, Lee A. 2009. The Women’s Movement Inside and Outside the State. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Available at: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315725789‍Banaszak, 2009; Haussman, Melissa and Birgit Sauer. 2007. Gendering the State in the Age of Globalization: Women’s Movements and State Feminism in Postindustrial Democracies. Plymouth, UK: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.‍Haussman and Sauer, 2007; McBride, Dorothy E. and Amy G. Mazur. 2010. The Politics of State Feminism: Innovation in Comparative Research. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press.‍McBride and Mazur, 2010; Suh, Doowon. 2011. “Institutionalizing Social Movements: The Dual Strategy of the Korean Women’s Movement”, The Sociological Quarterly, 52 (3): 442-471. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1533-8525.2011.01214.x‍Suh, 2011) consider that highly institutionalized movements have more chances to achieve a considerable impact on gender equality policies. My analysis suggests that this is true, as both Bolivian feminist NGOs and women’s social organizations were highly institutionalized during the studied period and had considerable impact on the analyzed policies.

NOTES[Up]

[1]

The italics are the author’s.

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ANNEX: INTERVIEWS[Up]

Code Organisation Position Place and date of the interview
Interview 1 Government of Bolivia Minister of productive development (2011-‍2015) La Paz, 2016
Interview 2 Government of Bolivia Former high-level civil servant workong on gender-equality policy La Paz, 2016 and 2017
Interview 3 Government and parliament of Bolivia Minister of culture (2011-‍2012) and MAS MP (2006-‍2010) La Paz, 2016
Interview 4 Parliament of Bolivia and “Bartolinas’ MAS MP (2016) La Paz, 2016
Interview 5 Vice-presidency of Bolivia Policy advisor (2016) La Paz, 2016
Interview 6 Government of Bolivia and Friedrich Ebert foundation Minister of autonomies (2011-‍2015) and vice-minister of departmental and municipal autonomies (2010-‍2011), projects coordinator at Friedrich Ebert foundation (2017) La Paz, 2017
Interview 7 ACOBOL Legal advisor (2017) La Paz, 2017
Interview 8 Communitarian feminism assembly Member (2016) La Paz, 2016
Interview 9 “Gregoria Apaza” Centre for Women’s Promotion and UMSA Centre for Research and Development Director of the “Gregoria Apaza” Foundation (2009-‍2014) and researcher at UMSA (2016) La Paz, 2016
Interview 10 “Gregoria Apaza” Centre for Women’s Pormotion Director (2015-‍2017) La Paz, 2017
Interview 11 “Conexión” Development Fund Director (2016-‍2017) La Paz, 2016 and 2017
Interview 12 Colectivo Rebeldía Spokesperson (2017) El Alto, 2017
Interview 13 ACOBOL and La Paz Foundation Vice-president of ACOBOL (2000-‍2005) and director of La Paz Foundation (2017) La Paz, 2017
Interview 14 Women’s Coordination Director (2013-‍2017) La Paz, 2017
Interview 15 Government of Bolivia Former general director for the prevention and elimination of all forms of gender- and generational-based violence La Paz, 2016 and 2017
Interview 16 Parliament of Bolivia and CONAMAQ MAS MP (2016) La Paz, 2016
Interview 17 ADECO (ACOBOL-Cochabamba) Advisor (2017) Cochabamba, 2017
Interview 18 Government of Bolivia, Cochabamba local government and “Bartolinas’, ACOBOL Secretary of relations of the departmental federation of “Bartolinas” (1999-‍2001), minister of justice (2007-‍2010), member of Cochabamba local government and member of ACOBOL (2017) Cochabamba, 2017
Interview 19 Communitarian feminist assembly Member (2017) La Paz, 2017
Interview 20 Mujeres Creando Member (2016) La Paz, 2016
Interview 21 Ministry of Justice Gender consultant (2016) La Paz, 2016

Biography[Up]

[a]

Doctor in Political Sciences, Public Policies and International Relations awarded by the Institute of Government and Public Policies (IGOP) at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB). He has a BA in Law and Politics (UC3M) and a MA by the Center for Political and Constitutional Studies (CEPC) in Madrid. He has also completed an MPhil in Sociology at Goldsmiths (University of London), with a master thesis on the domestic workers’ movement in Bolivia. His doctoral thesis is titled Left-Wing Populism and Feminist Politics: the Case of Evo Morales. Bolivia. He collaborates as journalist in several media and he currently works as chief of cabinet of the Deputy Major for Social Rights, Global Justice, Feminisms and LGTBI at Barcelona City Council.