Encarnacion. Omar G. “Out in the Periphery: Latin America’s Gay Rights Revolution”, Oxford University Press, 2016.
The Leader in the Global South
Latin America has been known to be the place where Roman Catholicism prevails and where machismo is a way of life. Nonetheless, it has emerged as the
undisputed gay rights leader of the Global South. Several Latin American countries have passed up many more developed nations (as well as the United States) in legislating equality for the LGBT community. Just how did this happen and why are Latin American nations diverging in their embrace of gay rights, as we see in Argentina? Argentina is a country with a long and dark history of repression of homosexuality yet it legalized same-sex marriage in 2010, a first for a Latin American nation and since then it has enacted laws to ensure transgender equality, to abolish “ex-gay reparative therapy,” and to provide reproductive assistance to same-sex couples. Brazil, in contrast, is a country that is famous for celebrating sexual diversity has not been able to legalize same-sex marriage via the legislature and has left it to the courts. Brazilian anti-gay discrimination laws are among the weakest in Latin America.
Breaking away from the conventional narrative of Latin America’s embrace of gay rights as a by-product of the global spread of gay rights from the developed West, author Omar Encarnación aims to gay rights politics from the center and not to
“demonstrate how the “local” has trumped the “global” in Latin America but instead to suggest how domestic and international politics interacted to make Latin America one of the world’s most receptive environments for gay rights”. He shows that economic and political modernization, constitutional and judicial reforms, and the rise of socially liberal governments have all done their parts in the passage of gay rights. The most decisive factor was the skill of local activists in crafting highly effective gay rights campaigns. The activists were inspired by external events and trends, but grounded their efforts to local politics and realities. These campaigns were important and succeeded in bringing radical change to the law with respect to homosexuality and, in some cases, as in Argentina, they transformed society and culture.
Encarnación issues a challenge to scholars and those interested in LGBT activism to look beyond the United States to understand how great victories can be had. He has done great research and presents good and clear arguments. The writing is lucid and easily understandable to everyone and unlike other books that are written for scholars, has a large audience. He has grounded LGBT politics in Latin America is a way that brings analyses from both the comparative and international perceptions. Further he shows us how domestic movements have come together with international influences in order to advance their agendas in their own contexts.
Encarnacion’s main notion is that the complex interaction between local contexts and international trends plays a crucial role in defining possible policy outcomes. The dynamic between the activists and the larger international groups is the primary consideration.