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Theses Master's

Traditional Midwives a Link Between Cultural Rights and Women’s Rights

Flores, Marina Gonzalez

Women’s rights are often perceived as existing in direct opposition to cultural rights. If we provide and protect Indigenous Peoples’ or minority groups’ collective cultural rights, it is commonly assumed that this will come at the expense of women’s rights. However, such limited definitions of culture and rights fail to understand that culture can be a means through which to localize rights. This paper argues that traditional Mayan midwives in the Yucatan Peninsula— Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo—can provide reproductive services and women’s rights visibility by protecting and maintaining their culture in their communities. Through unstructured interviews and participant observation, this author interviewed midwives, mothers, and activists in the region to provide a larger picture of the reproductive health situation in rural communities. Mayan women, who experience high levels of obstetric violence and structural oppression, are in dire need of culturally competent programs that support and validate their reproductive needs and experiences. The findings presented in this thesis suggest that midwives are crucial actors in localizing women’s and cultural rights in their communities and greater support by medical personnel can help increase reproductive safety.

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Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Ergas, Yasmine
Degree
M.A., Columbia University
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