PhD Thesis proposal

Universal rights and local values: lesbian relationships negotiating futurity

Supervisor/s: Pablo Pérez Navarro, Ana Cristina Santos and José Ignacio Pichardo Galán

Doctoral Programme: Human Rights in Contemporary Societies

The connection between the struggles of social movements in Spain, binding or non-binding documents of political and/or human rights international institutions such as the United Nations, the European Union or the European Community, and the granting of local legal rights to sexual and gender dissidents in western world is evident (Pichardo, 2009; Sánchez, 2010; Santos, 2005, 2013). On the one hand, the crucial role of activism is very clear both in what concerns to broader institutions and, mostly, in regard to local political changes (Trujillo, 2009; Santos, 2013). On the other hand, the way recommendations and policies are made and/or implemented is, sometimes, based on heterosexual patterns of society, pushing queer people to normative models or dismissing some ways of sociability that do not fit into the traditional norm (Phelan, 2001; Ayoub and Paternotte, 2014; Beger, 2004, 2009).

In my project, I will draw from the research I am carrying out in Madrid, within the project INTIMATE - Citizenship, Care and Choice: The Micropolitics of Intimacy in Southern Europe, focusing on interviews with women in lesbian relationships. My main questions are: To what extend legal policies are effectively accommodating human rights of women engaged in lesbian coupledom? Which rights remain disregarded, and how is the recognition of rights changing? In what way does the human rights discourse accommodate the individual and familial multiple forms of diversity to which lesbian relationships contribute?

After the transition to democracy (since the death of Franco in 1975), many discriminatory laws have been abolished, giving space, some years later, to anti-discriminatory laws, culminating in the right to marriage and adoption (2005) and access to artificial reproductive technology both to single women or lesbian couples (2006 and 2007) (Calvo and Trujillo, 2011; Pichardo, 2009, 2011; Sánchez, 2010).

The concept of Intimate Citizenship (Plummer, 2003, Roseneil, 2010; Roseneil et al. 2012) will be used as a tool that recognizes the importance of feminist and queer political, social and cultural transformations of recent decades and the way those transformations influenced these women multiple choices regarding the way they are living intimacy. I will also evaluate the constant tensions between the conquest of rights, on the one hand, and the conservative legal, medical and political discourses (Sánchez, 2010; Santos, 2012; 2013), on the other, that have marked and still do (in a less extend), those women possibility of living their sexuality and forge families outside the traditional model. Furthermore I will analyse to what extend society and culture are influenced by those tensions, and to what extend the debate still prevails today, even if legal recognition is legitimizing those relationships and new family models (Grau, 2016; Pichardo; 2009, 2011; Sánchez, 2010).