The role of women in Nicaraguan history and their relationship to the Nicaraguan state

Maria Hamlin-Zuniga, Ana Quirós Víquez


The struggle between the state on one hand, and democracy and society on the other, reflects the ongoing conflict between the rulers and the ruled, between governing and dialoguing, and especially the conflict between the government and its female citizens, between the government and those autonomous social movements, which are not bound to any party, religious, or similar interests. This paper discusses how Nicaraguan women from such autonomous movements have managed to live and survive in the midst of these contradictions.

To govern people without regard to their sex, gender, race or ethnicity is to ignore the needs of specific social groups and their ways of relating to power. This shortcoming has been recognized and efforts made to integrate this understanding into public policy. The majority of the theories about the State, however, are gender-blind. By not recognizing that women have needs that transcend class, ethnicity, and social group, “gender-blind” policies act as an instrument to reproduce discrimination and oppression of women.

Liberal doctrines conceive of the state as a “neutral arbitrator between competing interests” with a clear separation between the public and private (family, personal) spheres. This is within these spheres where demands for better educational opportunities, better work, women’s suffrage, equality in marriage and property rights for women are decided. However, this approach ignores the fact that women have different needs and required specific conditions in to access and exercise their rights as citizens.

Marxists see the state as a “tool of domination and repression” controlled by capitalist classes, but do not take into account gender, nationality, or ethnicity dimensions; they are only interested in social class. The oppression of women is under-stood as a consequence of their class position, lack of property and exclusion from the production process; gender is not taken into account.

In this paper, we will use Connell’s definition of the state as “an important vehicle for regulating sexual and gender oppression,” which is a “pro-cess” linked to social structures and not a static mechanism. Its institutional structure is recognized as a “part of a larger social structure of gender relations.” It views the State not as an actor outside the prevailing gender structure, but as the very embodiment of those gender structures. The state plays a key role in perpetuating gender relation-ships and the centerpiece of that control is the exercise of power.

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Department of Family and Social Medicine
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