Legitimacy on Trial: Transnational Governance, Local Politics, and the Battle over Gender-Violence Law in Nicaragua
by Pamela Neumann
The killing and abuse of women remains one of the most serious problems confronting Latin American societies. Many countries have passed a variety of laws intended to address femicide and other forms of violence against women. Yet the implementation of these laws has been inconsistent at best. This article analyzes the case of Nicaragua, which passed a comprehensive law on gender-based violence (Law 779) in 2012. While celebrated by local women’s organizations, Law 779 was subsequently weakened through a series of legislative reforms and executive decrees. This article seeks to explain why state actors in Nicaragua initially supported Law 779 and later sought to undermine it. Despite the development of transnational governance structures over the last two decades, this article demonstrates how local political conditions remain central to explaining the trajectory of gender-violence legislation, particularly in contexts characterized by a high concentration of political power. Through an analysis of Law 779, this article contributes to broader debates about the nature of state legitimacy and the potential of legal advocacy to address violence against women.
Keywords: gender, violence against women, gender-based violence, Latin America, women’s rights, transnational feminism, state legitimacy
About the author:
Pamela Neumann earned her M.A. in Latin American Studies and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests include gender-based violence, social movements, and development in Latin America. Her current book project examines the politics of gender violence law and women’s everyday experiences with the legal justice system in Nicaragua. Her work has been published in Gender & Society, Social Problems, and Social Forces.