Arias, Rafael (1); Sanchez, Leonardo (1); Arias-Achio, Rafael (2) (2016). 'GENDER EQUALITY IN COSTA RICA IN A COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE WITH THE REST OF LATIN AMERICAN COUNTRIES' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

topics: Gender, Inequality and Justice, LA - Latin America

abstract: HDCA 2016 Conference Capability and Diversity in a Global Society Full Paper Sessions   GENDER EQUALITY IN COSTA RICA IN A COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE WITH THE REST OF LATIN AMERICAN COUNTRIES   Key Words: Gender Equality, Capabilities Approach, Human Development, Human Rights, Globalization.   Rafael Arias, Ph.D. MSc. Leonardo Sánchez Bach. Rafael Arias-Achio This paper is aimed to analyze, in a comparative perspective, the achievements and shortcomings of gender equality in Costa Rica. In order to do this, we departure from an evaluation of a series of institutional arrangements implemented by the country in the direction of providing better opportunities for women to fulfill their aspirations for equal rights, economic independence, access to public health and education, access to the labor market, access to productive assets and an active and effective participation in the decision-making process.  Then, we use existing international indexes to compare Costa Rica with the rest of Latin American region to explore the advances and limitations of the country regarding public policies of recognition and redistribution to enhance gender equality. According to Sen (1995), the main purpose of development is to expand the possibilities of people in order for them to choose the life they want and having opportunities of being and acting. For Sen, access and control of material resources is not an end in itself, but a means for capability building within an institutional framework of freedom and collective as well as individual rights. For Nussbaum (2002), Sen’s concept of capabilities is relevant to the construction of gender equality. According to this author, the capabilities approach understands a person’s agency and freedom as playing a central role. This involves thinking about gender equality as the ability of people to perform in what they are capable of "doing and being" (Hicks, 2002). Thus, capability building approach becomes a core component of human development, consistent with the aspirations of women to have equal opportunities. Therefore, sustainable human development with gender equality promotes equal rights for women and men, recognizing and respecting the diversity of the human condition.  It sees women as agents and beneficiaries of development, expanding their opportunities and creating equal conditions to have access to opportunities and satisfaction of objective and subjective needs (UNDP, 2005). Meanwhile, the capability building approach is in intrinsic relation with the rights approach, which involves a significant change with respect to traditional conceptions of social, cultural, economic and political participation along gender, ethnicity and race lines. This recognizes that all people, regardless of gender, age, culture, nationality or any other status, are entitled to the full range of rights that are inherent of the human condition. It also argues that the state and society in general must guarantee spaces, opportunities and conditions for all people to develop their potential and make full use of their rights. In this sense, social inequality along identity lines, including gender, becomes an obstacle for both: income generation and for the development of capabilities of segments of the population who suffer from exclusion and discrimination on the basis of their differences. Therefore, the notion of human development cannot be separate from the achievement of autonomy and political, social and economic "empowerment”. Autonomy includes the conquest of economic independence through access to productive employment, the ownership of assets and active and effective participation in the decision-making process. Within the framework of feminist interpretations of power, beyond its formal and institutional definitions, empowerment is more than the access to the decision-making process; it also includes the processes that lead people to perceive themselves able and with the right to occupy spaces of decision making.  For instance, Kabeer (2005), states that a way of thinking power is in terms of the ability to choose, referring to the process through which those who have been denied this capacity, acquire it. Thus, it is the ability of women to increase their own self confidence in life and to influence the direction of public policy, with the ability to obtain rights and control over resources (physical, human, intellectual, financial, and their own agency) and ideology (beliefs, values ​​and attitudes). Thus, equal rights for women is a fundamental principle in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the main human rights instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These declarations state that rights apply to all people, without distinction of race, sex, language, religion, political opinion, national or social origin, birth or other status. In addition, nation states, specifically commit to ensuring men and women have the equal enjoyment of all economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights. In Latin America these commitments and transformations are gaining importance in the context of globalization, led by new actors acting through transnational advocacy networks at the local as well as at the global level. Because of this there is an increase in cases in which international justice becomes relevant through its international instruments for the protection, defense and exercise of women’s rights and gender equality. One of the significant cases has to do with the affirmation of the rights and equality of women (United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean-ECLAC, Office of the High Commissioner for Human-OHCHR Rights and Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women-CEDAW, 2005).  

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