Amnesty International called on the Paraguayan Senate not to approve a bill that aims to implement a ban on “gender ideology” being taught in schools, universities and other educational institutions.
The term “gender ideology” is a loaded term, according to the Trans Journalists Association’s Stylebook and Coverage Guide. It’s used by anti-trans activists to imply that gender identity is an imposed political philosophy, not a demographic characteristic, and that there are ulterior motives behind gender-inclusive education.
The project, presented on July 6 by senators from the ruling party Partido Colorado, intends to prohibit “the promotion, encouragement or teaching of gender ideology” and apply “criminal and/or administrative sanctions” to those who don’t comply, but does not establish the state body responsible for its enforcement nor specify what sanctions would be imposed in that case, Amnesty International pointed out in a text they sent to the Senate on Wednesday.
“This bill is a total affront to human rights. Adopting a gender perspective in education should not only not be prohibited, but it is an obligation of the Paraguayan state due to its international human rights commitments,” said Ana Piquer, Americas director at Amnesty International, in a press release.
However, this is not the first initiative that aims to restrict gender perspective in Paraguayan educational policy. Through Resolution 29.664 on 5 October 2017, the Ministry of Education and Sciences prohibited “the dissemination and use of both print and digital materials referring to gender theory and/or ideology in educational institutions.”
The new bill presented by the ruling party’s senators, if approved, would also broaden the scope of those restrictions, since they would become applicable “without exception in all educational institutions in the country, at all levels, whether public or private, whether in-person, online or hybrid.”
It was presented in the Senate in the month prior to President Santiago Peña’s inauguration on August 15. Peña’s campaign slogan was “God, homeland and family.” He has spoken against gay marriage and abortion.
“I will defend [the traditional family] with my whole life and strength,” he said in August 2022 while answering questions citizens sent him online. “Marriage is between men and women, and family is society’s center,” he continued, adding that he would “defend life from conception, against abortion.”
‘An empty signifier’
In the text sent to the Senate, Amnesty International expressed their concern over the Paraguayan Congress considering adopting a legal text based on the concept of “gender ideology,” given it is “frequently used with a demeaning connotation by anti-rights groups to refer to ‘gender perspective.’”
“Studies have shown that the expression ‘gender ideology’ is an empty signifier,” Amnesty International said, “that can exploit fear and anxiety in specific contexts, and, therefore, be tweaked to adapt to different political projects, frequently directed to opposing issues related to integral sex education, feminism, reproductive rights, and LGBTIQ+ rights.”
Amnesty International says that the bill violates international human rights norms and standards to which the Paraguayan state is bound and which explicitly recognize the human right to comprehensive sexuality education with a gender perspective, which is indivisible from the right to education and integral to the enjoyment of the rights to life, health, information and non-discrimination, among others.
The document also highlights how the proposal to prohibit a gender perspective in any area of public policy disregards the high rates of gender inequality, violence and discrimination that disproportionately affect women, girls and LGBTIQ+ people.
“It is highly concerning that legislators and authorities when explaining the bill, make use of empty and ambiguous statements such as ‘gender ideology’ and ‘indoctrination’ to refer to education with a gender perspective,” Piquer said.
Piquer added that “these statements not only distort the real meaning and purpose behind comprehensive sex education but also seek to manipulate public opinion, exploiting societal fears and anxieties and encouraging the stigmatization and persecution of people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.”
“A gender perspective is essential to achieving substantive equality for all people in accordance with Paraguay’s international obligations in matters of human rights,” Amnesty International’s document says. “It is only through these lenses that gender-based discrimination and inequalities can be recognized as deeply rooted in societies and as having a significant impact on people’s experiences and opportunities, as well as on their ability to exercise their human rights.”