Bolivian Women, Law 348 and the Academy
Dr. Ashley Rogers is bringing the plight of Bolivian women to the attention of academia in the UK. Rogers recently completed a PhD in Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Stirling in Scotland. Her dissertation focused Law 348, a revolutionary law in Bolivia passed in 2013, which granted women the right to a life free of violence.
Rogers became aware of violence in Bolivia during an international politics and human rights master’s program at the University of Glasgow in 2009. Rogers recalls, “Evo Morales was the first indigenous president in power. They were creating a new constitution and that was fascinating for me because I was learning about constitutions and what was involved in that process. Bolivia ignited something in me that sort of brought together all of my interests-indigenous movements, women’s movements, collectivities and how people would put together a document that could be potentially representative of different parts of society.” Rogers was unaware, at the time, that Bolivia did not ensure a violence-free life to its women, nor did she know Bolivia had some of the highest rates of gender-based violence on the South American continent.
She became conscious of this issue when she came to Bolivia to do her PhD fieldwork in 2015.
“When I went to Bolivia and I started meeting lots of women and attending marches and protests, that was when the issue became clear.” This led Rogers to focus her studies on Law 348 (Ley 348), the law signed into effect by Evo Morales in 2013 that granted women the right to live a violence-free life. She says, “I was not interest in the law on paper, but rather I wanted to know was how women conceptualized the violence they experienced and how they were mobilizing the law. Rogers spent a year in La Paz and Santa Cruz gathering life stories from women at women’s centers, interviewing civil society organizations, as well as visiting the special police force assigned to enforce Law 348. She says her research found that “while Law 348 had been hailed, internationally, as a success, women in Bolivia were disheartened by the implementation of the law. A lot of the women said that even though there was a law, when people tried to it, little or nothing happened.”
Rogers is reluctant to offer a solution to this issue; she says, “I am always wary of saying what other countries should do to change their situation.” Instead, drawing on her research Rogers says, “To be quite honest with you, there was barely a story that didn’t somewhere discuss the problem of alcohol.” While alcohol was revealed to be an issue, she cautions that “I wouldn’t want people to use this as an excuse where we can argue diminished responsibility where men could blame their violent behaviors on being drunk. It’s more about recognizing how alcohol may reveals aggression which is based on the deep-rooted, and long standing, subjugation of women”. Rogers’ research also indicates the need for Bolivia to make Law 348 more transparent – highlighting all aspects of the process - as well as promoting its values much earlier in schools.
She hopes to continue her research on Bolivia. She says, “I want to continue to research women in Bolivia as well as the advances and changes being made since Law 348 was ratified”. Rogers points out that, “Morales said he was going to create a dedicated cabinet to deal with violence against women, specifically focusing on the implementation of Law 348. I’d like to research that if it happens.” Additionally, Rogers hopes to return to Bolivia to learn about the impact that grassroots efforts such as Etta Projects has had on the plight of Bolivian women, and continue to learn more about women’s relationship with the law, and how they conceptualize a future that is just, and free of violence.
If you would like to reach out to Dr. Ashley Rogers, you may contact her on Twitter at @DrAshleyRogers.