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3 - Emancipatory Equality: Gender Jurisprudence under the Colombian Constitution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 January 2010

Martha I. Morgan
Robert S. Vance Professor of Law, University of Alabama School of Law
Beverley Baines
Queen's University, Ontario
Ruth Rubio-Marin
Universidad de Sevilla
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After decades of extreme violence, many Colombians eagerly embraced the 1991 Colombian Constitution, some hailing it as a peace treaty. It was drafted and adopted by a specially elected constituent assembly approved in response to a student campaign that rallied support for constitutional reform under the slogan, “We can still save Colombia.” Admittedly, the new Constitution has fallen far short of the bold expectations of those who envisioned it as a “peace treaty” for a country that is still marked by seemingly unfathomable levels of violence. But the 1991 constitutional assembly presented an opportunity for a broad spectrum of the diverse society to unite around a new “social contract,” replacing the country's 1886 Constitution (then Latin America's oldest) with a modern document.

Despite the broadly proclaimed representativeness of the 1991 constituent assembly, women were vastly underrepresented — only four of the seventy-four members were women. But women and organizations advocating their causes were active outside the assembly as well. They participated in the official worktables organized, regionally and by sector, to collect citizen proposals for constitutional change. As a result of advocacy and lobbying activities, they obtained support for much of their agenda from both men and women within the assembly. In contrast to the 1886 Constitution, which did not even include an express equality provision, the 1991 Constitution includes broad tri-generational civil and political, social, and collective rights, including not only provisions specifically addressing gender equality but also several other gender-related protections.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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Conference of Supreme Courts of the Americas, “Legal System of Colombia” (1996) 40 Saint Louis University Law Journal1353–6
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Morgan, Martha I. and Buitrago, Mónica Alzate, “Constitution-Making in a Time of Cholera: Women and the 1991 Colombian Constitution” (1992) 4 Yale Journal of Law and Feminism353–413Google Scholar
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