Author Pascha Bueno-Hansen visited West Chester University on Thursday, Nov. 19 in the Philips Memorial Library to speak on feminism in Peru.
When discussing women’s rights in the United States, concepts that are generally covered in the conversation are sex-based discrimination in the workplace, reproductive rights, modern standards of beauty, etc. These are all topics that the feminist movement engages in because they have many historical roots in United States culture.
A new principle that has been added in the rhetoric of the feminist movement is the term, “intersectional feminism,” which is the view that men and women have several facets to them including race, gender, class, and sexual orientation, and that all of these aspects of a person are interwoven in a way that uniquely influences their experiences with discrimination.
Bueno-Hansen referred to geography being a main influence on feminist ideals. By citing how Peru views “peasant” as an economic class and the United States does not, she explained that each region has different definitions and factions of these aspects of identity. Therefore, it is imperative to keep these differences in mind when addressing the feminist agendas of various regions around the world.
Bueno-Hansen promoted her novel, “Feminist and Human Rights Struggles in Peru: Decolonizing Transitional Justice,” during her talk. The summary of her novel is as follows: “In 2001, following a generation of armed conflict and authoritarian rule, the Peruvian state created a Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC). Pascha Bueno-Hansen places the TRC, feminist and human rights movements, and related non-governmental organizations within an international and historical context to expose the difficulties in addressing gender-based violence. Her innovative theoretical and methodological framework based on decolonial feminism and a critical engagement with intersectionality facilitates an in-depth examination of the Peruvian transitional justice process based on field studies and archival research.
“Bueno-Hansen uncovers the colonial mappings and linear temporality underlying transitional justice efforts and illustrates why transitional justice mechanisms must reckon with the societal roots of atrocities, if they are to result in true and lasting social transformation. Original and bold, Feminist and Human Rights Struggles in Peru elucidates the tension between the promise of transitional justice and persistent inequality and impunity.”
Presenting in front of approximately 50 students, Bueno-Hansen detailed the various strides that Peru has taken to counteract the brutality men and women faced in the wake of the militaristic regime and armed conflict in the late 20th century. She spoke of how, in the midst of this conflict, “almost 70,000 people lost their lives.”
Since then, many feminist organizations wish to speak out for the rights of women, the most notable in Bueno-Hansen’s eyes being DEMUS. According to their website, DEMUS is “a Peruvian feminist organization that defends human rights, including sexual and reproductive rights of women, promoting their free exercise and questioning the dominant cultural paradigm on women and sexuality.”
Bueno-Hansen informed her audience that DEMUS has helped shed light to the Manta case, a case pertaining to a collective 26 rapes that took place during Peru’s war-time, in the 1980s, and has led to this case being the first from its conflict to go to trial.
Sticking to her mission to discuss a wide variety of feminist agendas, Bueno-Hansen also noted that, “One of the most significant issues in Peru is the extraction of resources from the indigenous people” and stated that, “The efforts to defend land rights are done by women along with their husbands and sons.”
Bueno-Hansen mentioned the sexual violence against men that took place in Peru as well.
“Sexual abuse within the military [was] a tool to reestablish the social hierarchy within the military… Many times the ‘subversive’ women were ‘given’ to the troops, they were ‘obliged’ to rape these women… [Male soldiers] that did not take part were raped in order to make him part of a militarized, dehumanizing project,” said Bueno-Hansen.
She acknowledged that there are some similarities between the United States’feminist movement and the Peruvian feminist movement. She cited abortion rights as an example when discussing that the redefinition of rights is conflicting with some “traditional familial values.”
However, Bueno-Hansen explained that it is the trajectory of this conversation that is different. She noted that Peru getting therapeutic abortion legalized is “a huge gain.”
“[Peru’s] political organizing is way stronger than [the United States’] but [Peru hasn’t] historically made the gains that [the United States] has made… [Peru] is making gains while [the United States] is losing them,” said Bueno-Hansen.
In reference to the Manta case being brought to trial, Bueno-Hansen ended her lecture with a quote from theater actress Ann Correa: “How do we close this cycle of pain to start to find happiness again? If the painful wound stays open one cannot be reborn. The cycle must be closed… One must relive the pain to be able to heal and close the wound and start anew. We are cyclical; everything in us is cyclical, just as nature is cyclical.”
Halle Nelson is a second-year student majoring in communication studies with minors in English literature and deaf studies. She can be reached at HN824858@wcupa.edu.