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Feminism and Penal Expansion: The Role of Rights-Based Criminal Law in Post-Neoliberal Ecuador

Abstract

This article analyses feminist discourses on the criminalisation of violence against women in Ecuador, after the enactment of a “post-neoliberal” constitution. It responds to arguments in feminist legal theory, which affirm that penal expansion thrives through neoliberal globalisation, and that certain feminists have sponsored this carceral-neoliberal alliance, over and above redistributive concerns. However, in Ecuador, many feminists who participated in a recent criminalisation process also endorsed the post-neoliberal government’s social redistribution programme. Ecuadorian feminism therefore complicates current discussions on carceral and governance feminism, which link penal expansion with neoliberalism and an absence of redistributive concerns. Ecuadorian left-leaning feminists use rights-based frameworks to reconcile penal interventions with potential abuses of coercive power. This allows them to regard criminal justice as minimally problematic within the redistributive agenda they endorse. At the same time, the penal approach of Ecuadorian feminists runs the danger of marginalising legally pluralistic approaches to justice.

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Notes

  1. Clip available online at https://youtu.be/NTxUWQ2IE6s. Accessed 26 July 2018.

  2. The term, coined by John Williamson in 1990, refers to free market measures settled amongst Latin American and U.S. policymakers. To critics of neoliberalism, it involved U.S. imposition of structural adjustment, reduced social service provision, and the opening up of capital markets (Bedford 2009; Serra et al. 2008, 3–13).

  3. Some Latin American countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Venezuela, have been referred to as the “pink tide” (Kampwirth 2011), “new left”, or “post-neoliberal” (Borón 2003, 192), alluding to an approach that is not “socialist enough” to be considered “red”. Although some countries have recently moved back to right-leaning governments, the leftist programmes are still referred to as “socialism of the 21st century” (Dieterich 2009).

  4. In this article, I use “penality”, to refer to the whole of the penal complex, including laws, procedures and sanctions (Howe 1994; Foucault 1977; Garland 1985).

  5. Although Ecuador has lower incarceration rates than other Latin American countries, a 42% overpopulation has been estimated in prisons (El Telégrafo 2017). In addition, the rates of individuals imprisoned for particular crimes, such as drug trafficking doubled during 2017 alone (El Comercio 2017).

  6. Contemporary Andean thought is syncretic and presented in diverse ways (Estermann 1998). This article refers the concepts as they were incorporated into the 2008 Constitution.

  7. For example, the Beijing processes are indicative of the incorporation of Latin American feminists to international agencies and transnational NGOs. Also, in 1994, the OAS adopted the first VAW international treaty in the world: the Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women, known as “Belem Do Pará Convention”. Most Latin American laws on VAW resort to Belem do Para as a legal and conceptual foundation.

  8. Specialised Laws on domestic violence were enacted in Peru in 1993 and 1997; Chile and Argentina in 1994; Bolivia in 1995, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico in 1996; and Venezuela in 1998 (Wilson 2013, 3–18).

  9. Development is defined as “the organised, sustainable and dynamic group of political, socio-cultural and environmental systems which underpin the achievement of the good living, the sumak kawsay” (Constitución de la República del Ecuador, Art. 275).

  10. This term, which translates approximately into “historical woman”, was used by most interviewees to refer to veteran feminist activists.

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Acknowledgements

I wish to thank Dr. Katie Cruz, Dr. Arturo Sánchez García, Dr. Anne Carr, Professor Aziza Ahmed, Dr. Sebastián López Hidalgo, and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on earlier versions of this article. I am always grateful to Professor Kate Bedford for her continued guidance and support. All errors remain my own.

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Tapia Tapia, S. Feminism and Penal Expansion: The Role of Rights-Based Criminal Law in Post-Neoliberal Ecuador. Fem Leg Stud 26, 285–306 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10691-018-9380-5

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Keywords

  • Carceral feminism
  • Violence against women
  • Ecuador
  • Post-neoliberal
  • Human rights
  • Governance feminism