After decades of steady progress in terms of gender and sexual rights, several parts of Western and Eastern Europe are facing new waves of resistance. These oppose the so-called “gender ideology”, and unveil a crucial role of the Catholic Church. However, these mobilizations should not be merely regarded as contemporary reiterations of established forms of opposition to particular understandings of gender and sexuality, but are also shaped by new discourses and forms of organization in which established conservative actors clearly seek to reach beyond their traditional circles and to connect with a wider audience.
While marriage equality clearly operated as the catalyst of this new coalition and the moral panic it represents in several countries (France, Croatia, Slovakia, Italy), their political agenda cannot be reduced to their opposition to same-sex marriage, but extends to opposing reproductive rights and abortion, sex education in public schools, sexual liberalism more broadly, and indeed the very notion of gender itself. In other words: we are facing a strong, structured and well-organized opposition to the (political and academic) debates around gender equality and intimate or sexual citizenship.
Beyond the strong connections to some segments of the Catholic Church, current mobilizations are also connected to Evangelicals, especially in the United States, and to political and religious actors in Russia and the countries under its influence In addition, mobilization against “gender ideology” (or “gender theory” as it is referred to in some countries), which started at the United Nations, extends far beyond Europe, as shown by several countries in Latin America and Africa.
It is now obvious these protests are not an isolated phenomenon in Europe. Indeed, occurrences of religiously-inspired opposition to gender and sexual rights can be observed across the continent. However, while research is developing in some countries like France or Croatia and Vatican documents have been scrutinized, we know very little about these mobilizations. We can hardly explain how religious discourses about sex difference turn intro massive street demonstrations and how forms of organization and protest travel across borders. We have also a poor knowledge of the actors behind this movement. Our ignorance has crucial political consequences, as an efficient answer requires a previous precise understanding of what is at stake. In addition, oppositional movements are poorly known in Europe and the political role of the Catholic Church has been overlooked in recent decades.
This project, which gathers researchers and activists, is an attempt to address this situation. It aims at gathering more information about these mobilizations across the continent and to confront it with activists on the ground to elaborate better informed strategies to promote equality in Europe. A thorough comparative and transnational project across Europe is the only way to gather pieces of information spread and to illuminate what remains invisible if we keep working at national level.
At a scientific level, this project aims:
• To understand better the actors behind these mobilizations
• To investigate the interplay between religion and opposition to gender and sexual rights, both in terms of actors and discourses, and to understand how religiously-inspired discourses fuel political protest
• To understand the transnational diffusion of these mobilizations.
At a political level, this project wants:
• To promote an active and enduring dialogue between scholars and activists
• To contribute to an efficient strategy against these movements thanks to a better analysis of what is happening in Europe.