Weaponizing Gender: The Campaign Against ‘Gender Ideology’ in the Colombian Peace Plebiscite, Angela Bohorquez Oviedo
From Lauren Mosesso on April 15th, 2021
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In the 2016 Colombian peace plebiscite, right-wing politicians and Christian evangelical leaders promoted a campaign against ‘gender ideology’ during the peace negotiations between President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). This campaign defended traditional family values and considered women’s and LGBT rights a threat to society’s moral fabric. This research examines the role of the campaign against ‘gender ideology’ in shaping the national mainstream media coverage of the peace plebiscite elections. The key opinion leaders involved in the plebiscite debate explain in a set of interviews that ‘gender ideology’ ideas were used as an ‘exotic’ story of the peace opponents to prevent a final agreement’s ratification. While the government supported the ‘Yes’ vote in traditional mainstream newspapers, this campaign preferred to spread their messages against women’s and LGBT rights on social media platforms. Additionally, the content analysis results of a random sample of 301 news stories in the two most popular Colombian online newspapers—El Espectador and El Tiempo—two months before the plebiscite elections, indicate both media outlets actually supported the ‘Yes’ vote prior to the elections. However, the most frequent sources of the news stories were members of the ‘No’ campaign, and the national media ended up amplifying political disputes rather than facts of the plebiscite. Therefore, this confrontational coverage ended up providing a useful platform for the campaign against ‘gender ideology’ to disseminate anti-peace agreement ideas. Both newspapers missed an opportunity for fact-checking and contextualizing ‘gender ideology’ messages. The Colombian government failed to construct an effective counter-strategy to respond promptly to the ‘gender ideology’ disinformation on social media.