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Oberlin College

Publication Date

Spring 2008

Program Name

Chile: Culture, Development, and Social Justice


The human right to sexual and reproductive health, as defined at the International United Nations Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994), continues to be a pending issue in Chile. The sexual and reproductive health of indigenous women emerges as a crucial issue within this field due to Chile’s history of cultural ignorance and a dictatorial healthcare system. Studies of women’s sexual and reproductive healthcare within indigenous communities in Chile have focused on the Cosmo vision and traditional medicine of the Aymara due to their distinct concepts of reproduction, gender roles, and family planning. Studies conducted by Maria Soledad Pérez Mocoso and Claudia Dides Castillos and others generalize that birth control methods, family planning, and official health care services have not been fully incorporated into Aymaran communities due to their lack of cultural relevance. Rossana Testa Salinas and Elías Muñoz Gutiérrez, authors of a study on healthcare of Aymaran women in the North of Chile conclude differently that modern methods of reproductive and sexual health are utilized by Aymaran women, although their right to sexual and reproductive healthcare has not been fully realized. The studies on this topic are limited and based in biomedical terms. Few studies consider social and cultural elements of sexual and reproductive health. How do Aymaran women in Chile perceive their right to sexual and reproductive health? The objective of this study is to explore this question within the population of Aymaran women in the town of Putre, Chile. I spent 17 days in Putre, a town of 1,977 people in the northern province of Parincota and conducted interviews with a total of 13 Aymaran women between the ages of 20-65, four Aymaran girls between the ages of 14-17, the director of the public health center, an intern studying gynecology, three Aymaran medicinal healers, and two directors of women’s organizations. The five themes I included in the interviews were 1) Sources of information about sexuality and reproduction, 2) Use of contraceptive methods, 3) Reproductive history, 4) Sexuality, and 5) Current healthcare. Due to the differing experiences of the Aymaran women, it is difficult to generalize their perception and understanding of sexual and reproductive health. The following are some trends I noted during my time in Putre. Sexuality and reproduction continue to be taboo subjects in the Aymara culture in Putre although the increasing flows of information regarding sexuality and reproduction and the receptive attitude of the Aymaran women have started to open communication on these topics. Accessible information is essential in assuring that the Aymaran women of Putre are empowered to make decisions about their reproductive and sexual health. For example, despite the public health center’s relatively new policy of intercultural healthcare which offers the choice of official or traditional healthcare methods, the women in this study generally prefer official methods of birthing and contraception. There is a need for an open forum concerning sexuality and gender roles in order to facilitate conversations in Putre concerning sexual rights. More studies on sexuality in the Aymaran culture of Putre would help in understanding how to create said forums in a culturally sensitive format.


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Latin American Studies | Obstetrics and Gynecology | Public Health Education and Promotion


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