The network's principal aims are to reform Latin American legal education from a gender and sexuality perspective; to generate bibliographical and teaching materials for incorporation into law school curricula; to carry out research and academic activities for the promotion of justice, sexuality and reproductive rights of women and sexual minorities in the region; to guarantee free judicial assistance in law schools for victims of reproductive rights violations; and to promote debate and the articulation of strategies for the protection of human rights in general, and reproductive rights in particular, in the Latin American context.
In August 2004, a seminar was organized in Buenos Aires on the issue of gender and legal education in Latin America . The meeting gathered professors from Universidad Diego Portales in Chile, Universidad de los Andes in Colombia, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo in México, Universidad Iberoamericana in México, Universidad Católica in Perú, Universidad San Carlos in Guatemala, and Universidad de Buenos Aires in Argentina. It was sponsored by the Center for Reproductive Rights and received institutional support from American University Washington College of Law and the University of Toronto.
Participants at the seminar arrived at a shared diagnosis on the state of gender studies at seven Latin American law schools. Some of their conclusions were the following:
• There are few women law professors in Latin America , and among them only a minority incorporates a gender perspective in their teaching.
• Courses on legal feminism or with a feminist perspective on legal issues are few and far between, and, when offered, are marginalized within their institutions. Indeed, just a handful of law schools in the region offer courses related to gender and the law. Generally, the professors teaching these courses are hired as adjuncts with no tenure-track possibilities, and the courses are usually elective seminars with a very low demand. Moreover, there seems to be an ideological resistance on the part of the students regarding female legal issues—a resistance that is epitomized by the difficulty of incorporating topics such as sexual and reproductive rights, particularly abortion, within the curricula.
• Latin America 's legal tradition and culture have meant that law schools are a site where information and knowledge are taught vertically and without a thorough debate.
• Law schools in the region tend to reproduce, without criticism, a list of codes and formalities that are useful only as instrumental tools and that do not question the nature, scope, or responsibility of professional practice.
• Although women's rights activists in Latin America have shared strategies for a long time, there was—at the time of the meeting—no formal network of law professors working towards the incorporation of a gender perspective within legal academia.
In light of their conclusions, the seminar participants decided to create the Red de Académicas Latinoamericanas ( Red Alas ) , a Latin American network of law professors that, through a concerted effort, seeks to reform legal education in the region from a gender perspective.