Abstract by Prof. Dr. Susanna Mancini

The Instrumentalization and Undermining of Human Rights by Ultra-Conservative Movements

Anti-genderism has become a key component of the agenda of populist political actors both domestically and transnationally. As an anti-modern discourse often coupled with racist and anti-Semitic ideologies, anti-genderism has proven to be capable of provoking mass political mobilization. Appropriated by populists, it has the potential of turning rights protection on its head thus reducing the space for pluralism in constitutional democracies. At the transnational level anti-genderism is the glue that brings together conservatives of different stocks, unified by an agenda which prioritizes the exclusivity of the heterosexual paradigm, as well as isolationist discourses advocating for the closing of borders and the building of walls as a means to go back to the old nation-state. In this context the defense and promotion of the natural family becomes key, as procreation is seen as a means of “saving the nation from invasion and extinction”.

My paper tackles three dimensions of the anti-gender mobilization:

1) It highlights how globalization and the rise of supranational constitutionalism provide a wide range of opportunities for anti-gender movements to widen their networks, resulting in the circulation of legal arguments and litigation strategies. As the conservative US Christian legal organization Alliance to Defend Freedom declares on its website: ‘[I]international cases have the potential to set legal precedents that cross national borders, and even impact US law.’[1] The ECtHR has proven to be a particularly successful forum for right-wing lobbies to intervene in cases regarding sexual and reproductive rights, thanks to its openness and responsiveness.

2) It analyzes the strategies through which anti-gender organizations have become key players in constitutional and human rights litigation, showing how they have progressively adapted to, and adopted the, terms and rationale of liberal discourses, appropriating the rhetoric of democratic values and human rights to find a new means of building alliances and a sense of legitimacy.

3) It denounces a profound contradiction within European anti-gender movements, which simultaneously attack cosmopolitan internationalism and advocate for the return to the nation state, but heavily depend on the existence of a European public sphere and of European institutions for their very existence.

[1] http://www.adflegal.org/issues/international