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Voting 'Handmaids’ Protest Far Right Costa Rican Presidential Front-Runner

by Birthright: A War Story | 3.27.18

This content was originally published on Global News, and featured in Birthright: A War Story's newsletter. Read more about this issue, take action below, and help move the needle.

A group of women dressed in costumes like those worn in The Handmaid’s Tale took to the polls on Sunday to cast their vote in Costa Rica’s highly contested presidential election.

The eight women dressed in the show’s iconic clothing, which is based on a Margaret Atwood novel, in protest of the presidential front-runner’s stance on women’s rights and gay marriage.

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Fabricio Alvarado, an evangelical whose political stock soared after he came out strongly against same-sex marriage, had 24.9 per cent of the vote as of Monday.

A video showing the women arriving at a voting centre in Heredia, just outside the capital of San Jose, was shared on social media, along with photos of the women submitting their ballot.

Angelica Leon, one of the women taking part in the protest, shared other images on her Facebook page showing support for Alvarado’s closest competitor, Carlos Alvarado, a former journalist who served as labour minister under current President Luis Guillermo Solis.

“I believe in an inclusive country, that looks towards the future,” she wrote in another post. “Let’s get out and vote, this is beautiful!”

The group released the following statement explaining their protest:

We are very lucky. Still.

We grew up in a democratic and stable country, where media outlets are used to talking about a “fiesta electoral” (“electoral party”).

Today we celebrate, and we decided to make it a costume party as well. Why? Because we want to and we can. Because protest is also a form of celebration. That’s how lucky we still are. We can pretend to be part of a renowned work of fiction, in the face of a fundamentalist threat that is anything but fictitious.

We face a landscape where the material conditions for women have been a topic neglected by media and most political parties.

Most political proposals towards women have to do with caring for others, and an apparent obligation to reproduce.

Our obligation and participation as citizens, however, transcends that.

We protest in favor of a secular state that celebrates all liberties because there’s still a lot of work to do before reaching true equality.

We vote for our rights. We vote for our safety. We vote for our freedom.

Today we use our voices – because we still count on them and don’t plan on letting go.

The two leading candidates hold opposing stances on gay marriage, an issue that came to dominate Costa Rica’s presidential campaign.

The issue became a focus of the campaign following a January decision by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that said Costa Rica should allow same-sex couples to wed, adopt children and enjoy other rights afforded to married couples.

A recent poll said about two-thirds of Costa Ricans oppose same-sex marriage. The country is majority Roman Catholic with an increasing evangelical population.

However, with Carlos Alvarado claiming 21.7 per cent of the vote with 94 per cent of the ballots counted as of Monday, it likely means the country will head to a runoff to decide who will be the Central American nation’s next leader.

Costa Rican election rules state that if no one in the 13-candidate field finishes above 40 per cent, the top two advance to a runoff that would take place April 1.

— With files from the Associated Press

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