Constitutional Process NATIONAL

How might the new constitution address gender equality and sexual freedom?

The rejection of last year’s constitution was a blow for many female and LGBTQ activists. How might the new constitutional draft address gender equality and sexual freedom? The documents to date are suggestive.

On May 7, Chileans head to the polls to choose 50 “advisors” to the new Constitutional Council. The advisors will be tasked with writing the final draft of Chile’s proposed new constitution. A central aspect of last year’s proposed constitution was its focus on gender equality and sexual freedom. Will the new draft likewise focus on them? Several early documents indicate what is to come. 

First, there is the constitutional proposal, a document containing the government coalition’s “minimal demands.” There, the governing parties make detailed demands about women’s rights and sexual diversity:

 “The Constitution must recognize the value of different types of families.”

  • The Constitution must establish the specific rights of women and persons of sexual diversity, such as sexual and reproductive rights.”
  • The Constitution must lay the foundations for an inclusive society that eradicates gender discrimination and structural inequality, enshrining substantive equality …”
  • “The State’s collegiate bodies must have a parity composition, ensuring that at least fifty percent of their members are women.”
  • “The State may adopt affirmative action mechanisms to promote greater political and social inclusion of persons of sexual and gender diversity in accordance with the law.”

Then there is a preliminary draft, written by an Expert Commission elected by Congress. This commission has until June 6 to finish its preliminary draft. The council will write its final draft based on the preliminary draft.

Last month, the preliminary draft caused concern among (female) politicians, especially from the ruling coalition, because it did not guarantee gender parity.

The article in question establishes that men and women have equal rights to pursue political office, and that the state must “guarantee the exercise of full citizenship by women,” but nowhere does it mention “parity.” The draft’s wording leaves room for interpretation on that score.

It can be expected that the Constitutional Council advisors who represent the government coalition will lobby hard for more focus on precise gender parity language in the final constitutional draft. Whether they succeed remains to be seen.

On Dec. 17, the final draft will be voted on in a national plebiscite.


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