Hijacking Human Rights in Latin America

Posted by Gina Maranto, Biopolitical Times guest contributor May 3, 2011
Biopolitical Times
In 2009, a Buenos Aires civic association awarded a prize named after American civil rights activist Rosa Parks to Argentinian Senator Liliana Negre de Alonso. The prize was given “por la Defensoría de la Vida Humana,” but the recipient’s resumé hardly resembles that of a typical human rights advocate. Negre de Alonso has a history of opposing laws and policies that favor sexual and reproductive choice. In 2006, for instance, she fought against a bill that sought to provide all Argentinians access to free vasectomies or tubal ligations. Among other things, she argued that it would promote HIV transmission by lessening the need for condoms. She has long opposed abortion, and last year, she waged a highly emotional campaign against Argentina’s landmark same-sex marriage law.  

Negre de Alonso, a member of the highly conservative Opus Dei movement, which defines itself as the “personal prelature of the Catholic Church”, was exhibit Number One in a recent talk by anthropologist Lynn Morgan at the University of Miami. Morgan, the Mary E. Woolley Professor of Anthropology at Mount Holyoke College, detailed the ways in which a number of prominent politicians and scholars have undertaken “a coordinated effort to intellectualize and secularize their own brand of pro-life Catholicism” in Latin America, primarily by appropriating human rights discourse.

Morgan points to the way in which Paolo Carozza, a professor and Associate Dean for International and Graduate Programs at the University of Notre Dame Law School, has put forward a rights-based argument regarding Latin America in concert with self-described “pro-life feminist” Mary Ann Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor at Harvard Law School. Glendon was appointed Ambassador to the Holy See by President George W. Bush in 2007 and has ardently opposed abortion rights and the use of condoms for HIV prevention. Morgan says that Carozza and Glendon “rely heavily on each other” in their writings and have sought to make the case that Latin America has played a pivotal historical role in the development of human rights.