NSF Grant Application Collaborative Research by sparkunder12



Mala Htun New School for Social Research and S. Laurel Weldon Purdue University

Paper prepared for delivery at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting Chicago, August 29-September 2, 2007

In Pakistan, a woman who reports rape can expect to be charged with adultery; in neighboring India, women-run police stations and new legal devices empowervictims of violence and help state officials prosecute sex crimes. In Catholic Ireland, abortion is a crime while in Italy, seat of the Vatican, access to abortion is not only legally guaranteed but also provided at state expense. In Canada and the United Kingdom, women enjoy up to three years of paid maternity leave; in the United States, by contrast, they are not entitled to paid leave at all. These gender-related public policies vary dramatically across societies. They shape women’s access to education and employment,their ability to care for their children and other family members, and their chances to escape poverty and enjoy good health. Genderrelated policies have broader implications as well: societies with greater gender equality are more likely to be prosperous and sustain stable democratic institutions. And children have better chances of surviving and leading healthy lives in more gender-equal societies (Sen 1999; Dreze and Sen 2002; Nussbaum 2001; Inglehart and Norris 2003). What factors push governments to advance or undermine women’s rights and gender equality? 1 Does the introduction of elections make governments more or less likely to promote women’s rights? Are richer countries home to more “women-friendly” policies than poorer ones? Do democratization, economic development, cultural changes, international agreements, and the presence of women in leadership have similar effectsin different countries and regions? For example, have transitions away from socialism affected women’s rights in the same ways in Asia and in Europe? Has the movement toward elections shaped gender policy differently in Latin America and in Africa? These questions call for a global perspective. Perhaps this is why they are rarely asked, and not adequately answered, in the field of gender and politics. Though our scholarship has advanced remarkably over the past two decades (Beckwith 2005), most of us have shied away from global and world-historical comparisons. Most multi-country work on gender and politics compares a small group of countries, generally the OECD countries or some subset thereof (exceptions include Tripp forthcoming; Htun 2003; Macaulay 2006/7; Waylen; Blofeld; Krook; Dahlerup 2006; Matland 2006; SchwindtBayer 2003). What’s more, most of us tend to look at a single basket of policy issues, such as social welfare policy (O’Connor, Orloff and Shaver 1999; Skocpol and Weir; Sainsbury; Estevez-Abe 2006; Iversen and Rosenbluth 2006), violence against women (Weldon 2002), family law (Htun 2003; Charrad 2002) and quotas (Krook Dahlerup 2006). Rarely do we ; see a study that compares a wide range of policy types or countries at different levels of development.

We define gender equality as an ideal condition in which all men and all women have similar opportunities to participate in politics, the economy, and social activities; their roles and status are equally valued; neither suffers from gender-based disadvantage or discrimination; and both are considered free and autonomous beings with dignity and rights. We define gender equality policies as those measures through which government can accelerate (or obstruct) progress toward this ideal. Such measures operate in many policy areas, including family law, social welfare policy, reproductive rights, affirmative action, and measures to curb violence against women. Some of these policies affect all women. Others primarily affect marginalized or privileged sub-groups of women.


Moving gender from the margin to the center of comparative politics demands that we start from a global perspective. To do otherwise is to merely “add women and stir,” taking traditional divisions of comparative politics (region, level of development, degree of democracy) as being more fundamental than gender in determining the polcy outcomes i that affect women’s lives. Scholars of gender ought to critically examine these divisions and foundational concepts to ask whether they do in fact further our understanding of gender politics as much as one might think. When Costa Rica has a better maternity leave than the United States, and Latin American countries are quicker to adopt policies addressing violence against women than the Nordic countries, one at least ought to consider the possibility that fresh ways of grouping states would further the study of gender politics. State capacity, institutional legacies or the evolution of civil society, for example, might prove more critical in shaping gender policy than level of development. Not only must the body of scholarship on gender take a global perspective, but scholars of gender and politics should also tackle the full range of gender-related policy issues. Extant research is sufficiently developed to show that different causal mechanisms appear to be at work in producing the policy outcomes in different policy areas (Mazur 2003; Sanbonmatsu). Providing explanations for why the causal mechanisms are so different is as yet uncharted theoretical territory. These are daunting theoretical and empirical challenges, to be sure. But if we do not meet them, our understanding of global variation may be unduly influenced by theories of modernization, secularizatio democratization, and other inadequate guides to the n, complexity of gender politics. Our scholarship could also be unnecessarily fragmented by issue area, and/or focused on a few policy areas (i.e. maternity leave or abortion) where data is easiest to obtain. We need a theoretical approach that canaccount for the different causal processes across issue areas and countries. Comparative gender politics needs frameworks, theories, and causal models. Let us define each of these terms. Frameworks “help to identify the elements and relationships among these elements that one needs to consi er for institutional analysis“ (Ostrom 1999: d 39). Frameworks provide the lists of variables or factors that could be relevant to answer various puzzles related to comparativegender politics. Frameworks help generate questions and provide a basis upon which to compare theories. Theories help analysts understand which elements of the framework are relevant for which particular questions. Theories make specific assumptions that allow the diagnosis and explanation of political phenomena. Many theories may be compatible with a single framework. Models operate at an even higher level of specificity. They make precise assumptions about a limited set of parameters and variables. Many models may be compatible with a particular theory (Ostrom 1999). In this paper, we offer a global, cross-issue framework for investigating questions about gender and the state and we use this framework to generate theories about a wide range of gender policy issues. We propose specific models asways of operationalizing or


applying these theories and we offer some empirical examples to demonstrate the plausibility and utility of our approach. The framework is built on two meta-theoretical foundations. The first is the basic idea that politics is always the product of the actions of some agents confronting a particular context or place. We use the categories of agents and contexts to organize the elements in our theories. The second foundation holds that gender policy is not one issue but many. Each policy is unique, involving different actors and activating different conflicts. We build a typology of gender equality policies to confront the heterogeneit of y causal processes affecting different issue areas. Our framework shows that certain types of policy issues and certain features of the national context make particular actors more or less salient. Our theories illustrate how the countervailing effects of these different aspects of context affect the policy process. Using these foundations we construct causal models to assess the effectsof various factors (such as democratization, economic development, cultural changes, international agreements, women’s political activism and leadership, political party ideology, and policy styles or legacies) on gender politics. Our framework illustrates how the causes of policy change differ depending on the nature of the issue and the distinctive features of the national context. This perspective helps to reconcile existing conflicts in the literature and illuminate the limits to accepted explanations. In addition, we provide some examples of how our approach could apply to different types of policies in different types of countries, including rich and poor, democratic and non democratic, and different cultural and religious traditions. Existing Perspectives Over the course of the history of modern states, public policy for the most part upheld male dominance and female submission in social and political life. In the last half of the twentieth century, however, there has been a general trend towards policies that accord women more legal rights. Yet this trend is neither linear nor universal. Some countries have reversed earlier gains while others promote gender equality in certain areas and undermine it in others. Why? Explanations rooted in major approaches of comparative politics—democratization, modernization, cultural change—areinadequate to account for the range of variation in state policies on gender issues. Consider the following puzzles: 1. Transitions to democracy do not always produce progressive policies. Some Latin American dictatorships were more progressive than democratically elected governments (Htun 2003). As countries in Eastern and Central Europe transitioned to competitive party politics and free elections, some rights and privileges won by women were rolled back amidst a resurgence of nationalist, patriarchal discourses (Gal and Kligman 2000; Eglitis 2000; Einhorn and Sever 2003; Jaquette and Wolchik 1998).


2. Countries with progressive policies in some areas are laggards in others. Scandinavian countries such as Sweden are the envy of women everywhere for their generous maternity leave and family allowance, but these governments have done little to combat violence against women and to break down the sexual division of labor in the private sector. In fact, the “macho” countries of Latin America did far more to abet violence against women than the women-friendly Scandinavian welfare states (Weldon 2002; Elman 1996; Hernes 1987). 3. Richer and more efficient countries retain laws maintaining gender inequality. In Japan, the second largest economy in the world, married couples are legally required to use the same surname. In 98 percent of cases the man’s name is used. Chile, the most advanced country in Latin America and one of the fastest growing in the developing world, has some of the most conservative and restrictive laws on gender issues: it was the last country in the world to legalize divorce, bans abortion under all circumstances, and married women suffer unequal property rights (Baldez 2001; Blofield 2003; Haas 2000). In short, there is little evidence of policy convergence as a result of societal modernization, economic growth, or democratization. Existing perspectives on gender and public policy suggest clues for resolving these puzzles but not a comprehensive explanation for policy change. An early generation of feminist scholarship accounted for violations of women’s rights by diagnosing the modern, capitalist state as an instrument to reinforce patriarchal power (Abramovitz 1988; Brown 1981; MacKinnon1989; Pateman1989). Others, however, saw the state as a potential instrument of social progress. As Western states expanded socia service provision and l women’s employment, some scholars theorized the welfare state as potentially “woman friendly” (Piven 1990; Hernes 1987; cf. Leira 1993). Contemporary research moves beyond this dichotomy, recognizing (and sometimes seeking to categorize) the wide variation in state approaches to gender equali y (Haney t 1996; Brown 1981; Dahlerup 1987; Duncan 1996; Lewis 1993, 1998; O’Connor et al. 1999; Hantrais 1999). To explain the origins of gender-progressive policies, many scholars focus on women as political agents in policymaking positions and social movements. Most, however, also explore the ways that political contexts—including federalism, women’s policy agencies, political parties and cultural attitudes—shape women’s political behavior (Elman 1996; Banaszak 1996; Bashevkin 1998; Stetson and Mazur 1995; Mazur 2003; Gelb and Palley 1982; Gelb 1989; Hansen 1993; Mansbridge 1986; Lycklama and Njieholt et al 1998; Swers 2002). Although much of the literature recognizes that political context conditions the impact of women’s political mobilization, few theories confront the factthat in some circumstances, gender equality policies are adopted in the absence of women’s political presence in government or even lacking strong movements in civil society. For example, Latin American countries where women occupied five percent of legislative seats embraced domestic violence policies resembling those adopted where women held 30 percent of seats (Htun 2003b). And secular dictatorships from the Middle East to Latin


America embraced some progressive policies without the mobilization of women’s groups (Charrad 2001; Coleman 2004). Existing perspectives on gender and public policy also lack systematic, crossnational investigation of the interaction between gender and other axes of group difference in spite of near-universal acknowledgement that gender relations are shaped by religion, race, ethnicity and class. This interaction is likely to be important for policy outcomes (Williams 1995; Crenshaw1994; Beckwith 200 Hawkesworth 2003). 0: Some policies, such as mandating paid maternity leave, involve class as well as gender and are shaped by larger patterns of class politics including the power of left parties (Stetson and Mazur 1995). On issues that are primarily questions of gender (such as violence against women), class-based politics have little relevance, with left- and rightwing administrations introducing similar measures (Brush 2003; Elman 1996; Weldon 2002). Meanwhile, some gender policy issues (e.g. abortion) are likely to provoke opposition from organized religion, while others (e.g. gender quotas) are not (Htun 2003). Some studies note that no single model can explain the diverse political processes that produce gender equality policies (Mazur 2003). For the most part, however, scholars of gender policy have not offered an account of why and how causal processes vary across gender issues. We need a theory of how gender policy areas differ from one another. Each issue involves a distinct set of actors, activates different cleavages and conflicts, and has distinct implications for gender relations.2 What is more, most cross-national studies of gender-related policymaking have focused on developed countries and established democracies, mostly in the West. This may have biased general theory in favor of the experiences of certain countries. For example, studies of Europe suggest that Left wing parties and parties with powerful women (CaulKittilson 2004; Lovenduski and Norris 1993) tend to adopt policies to promote women to leadership such as candidate quo Yet in the past ten to fifteen years,dozens of states tas. outside of the West, including poor countries and non democracies, have introduced candidate quotas and reserved legislative seats for women (Htun 2004; Krook; Dahlerup 2006; Tripp et al forthcoming). These policies have often been promoted by right-wing and military governments (in Argentina, Pakistan, Peru) and in countries where women have wielded little influence (Jordan, Morocco). Depending on the particularities of the national context, the forces behind policy change may vary. Studies that limit case selection to developed countries and established democracies give the impression that level of development and degree of industrialization are as

It is important to note that efforts at such a theory have been made. Most significantly, Gelb and Palley distinguished between policies that promoted gender role changes and those that promoted gender role equity. They argued that this distinction shapes policy processes since role change policies are more politically contentious. This typology is an important step. However, it does not adequately differentiate all gender equality policies since each issue can promote role changes as well as role equity. What is more, since Gelb and Palley did not address cross-national variation, their approach is less helpful to understand why some actors are important for some issues and some national contexts but not others, a prime objective of our study.


foundational for gender equality policy outcomes as they are for other areas of politics. But these national differences may be more important for some gender policy issues (say, social policy issues requiring major outlays) than others (reproductive rights, violence against women, quotas) that do not require much national wealth. Even when it comes to these “expensive” issues, it may be that democracy and national wealth have indirect effects, depending on the mobilization of organized labor or women’s movements. But such indirect and-or issue-specific effects would be much harder to detect in studies that focus only on democracies or only on advanced indu strialized countries. State capacity may be more important for gender politics than either democratization or national wealth (although of course state capacity is not entirely separable from either issue). Questions of enforcement or implementation are important for all policy areas, but they are even more important for gender equality policies which aim for social change. Such social change policies are especially vulnerable to subversion in the process of implementation. State capacity varies greatly across developed and developing countries, democratic and authoritarian contexts: Some women live in what are essentially stateless places; others live in tightly regulated contexts. Framework: Issues, Agents, Contexts The above discussion suggests that we need a framework that accounts for differences in national context as well as differences in policy type. We therefore emphasize two elements: 1) a typology of gender policies; and 2) an interactive scheme showing how the influence of certain agents is magnified or reduced by certain features of the national polity. Our typology of gender policy issues implies that the causes and processes of change vary across different gender equality policies (issue distinctiveness). Our emphasis on context suggests that the forces pushing for change, and those resisting it (political agents), are more and less powerful in democratic and non democratic regimes, rich and poor societies, universalistic or group-based policy regimes, and countries with differing degrees of state capacity (agent- context interaction). Issue distinctiveness matters because particular issues are framed in particular ways and these specific frames call particular agents into action. Agents are critical because they drive political action. Context matters because it shapes the incentives for the acts that particular political agents undertake, making advocacy for some policies worthwhile and some pointless. These arguments generate specific causal models of how and under what conditions the main impetus behind change (women’s mobilization and international organizations focusing on women’s and human rights), opponents of change (religious organizations, socially conservative and/or nationalist movements), and gender-equality allies (often leftwing parties, unions, human rights groups) shape gender equality policy in a variety of national contexts.


The framework works as follows. The type of issue determines the range of actors relevant to the policy process. Particular issues “activate” or call into play certain political agents. Yet the national context shapes the power of these actors to promote change (Skocpol 1992). Political agents are more and less effective in procuring (or opposing) policy adoption depending on their own organizat onal characteristics and upon the i features of the national policy arena (degree of democracy; level of development; degreeof state capacity). The following figure illustrates our analytical framework: Determines which national actors matter Issue type

Political Actors Features of the National Polity

Gender Policy Adoption

Determines effectiveness of national actors, the relevance of international actors, and the salience of certain issues Figure 1: Elements of Analytic Framework

Using this analytic framework, we develop theories of gender policy formation that use a common set of variables to address the different causal processes across genderissues. We offer an account of political action as well as an appreciation of the fundamental importance of structure and context. Theories of Gender Policy: Types of issues, sets of agents, different national polity contexts Gender equality is not one issue but many (Htun 2003; Sanbonmatsu 2002). To identify the actors and processes governing change, we need to disaggregate gender-related policies into more specific categories. Two features of gender policy issues that activate different sorts of political dynamics are: 1) whether the issue involves class inequalities or whether it empowers all women as a status group and 2) whether or not the policy provokes religious opposition. Class-based versus gender status policies: Some gender policies strike mainly at the economic sources of inequality. Denying women access to economic independence keeps them dependent on men: This is one way that economic conditions maintain gender hierarchy and exploitation (Young 1990; Orloff 1993; Wright 1997): For example, in the


United States, women are disproportionately poor, especially when they live in womenheaded households (Pearce 1990). Providing child care subsidies facilitates women’s access to the labor market and reduces inequality. These gender issues are also class issues. Economic inequality disadvantages poor and/or working–class women and families and benefits womenand families with more resources. Often, middle class men and women rely on the work of poor or working class women (who care for children and the elderly, do housework, etc) in order to maintain their advantageous economic position. These policy issues are not only gender issues in that they concern the opportunities of working-class women as women, but they are also class issues because they concern the opportunities of working-class women as working-class people. So they are both gender and class issues, and they may be affected by class politics and policies as much as gender politics. Some important gender issues concern harms that are not primarily economic. Violence against women, women’s exclusion from political power, and the devaluation and denigration of women’s culture (women’s writing, music and art), for example, contribute to women’s oppression by terrorizing them, marginalizing their perspectives and experiences, and relegating them to the bottom of the status hierarchy. Policies that aim to address these wrongs necessarily identify women as a political group. For example, policies intended to ameliorate gender violence must draw attention to the specific harm such violence does to women as a group. Gender quotas in political parties or reserved seats in legislatures empower women as a group. In summary, policies that expand women’s rights in general are concerned with gender status; those addressing economic sources of gender inequality we call “class-based” policies. Relationship to doctrine of organized religious groups: Certain gender equality policies, such as policies aiming to improve access to abortion and contraception, and gender equality in family law, challenge the core tenets of some religious traditions. The prospect of reform on these issues incites the wrath of clerics and devout believers (Minkenberg 2002; Tribe 1992; Luker 1984). On other issues, religious organizations rarely involve themselves in public debates. We call policies that provoke the wrath of organized religion doctrinal; those unrelated to religious cleavages we call non-doctrinal. This typology of policy issues produces four distinct categories of gender issues (See Table 1). Examples of the types of policies included in each category are provided in the table. Table 1. Typology of gender equality issues
Do these policies challenge the established doctrine of organized, dominant religious groups? Yes No “Doctrinal” policies “Non-doctrinal” policies


Do these policies address class inequalities OR empower women as a status group?

Class-based policies Gender status policies

Abortion funding Contraception funding Abortion legality Contraception legality Family Law

Maternity leave Federal funds for daycare Workplace equality Gender quotas in politics Violence against women Constitutional equality

Each category involves different arrays of political agents as advocates and opponen ts. Now, we describe each of these dramatis personae. Agents The most important agents involved in gender equality policies include women’s movements, left parties, organized religion, and international activist networks. Women’s movements: Organizations of women, particularly those advocating feminism, are key players in gender policy. Women’s groups have grown in everycountry over the twentieth century, particularly after 1975. Their role advocating change is emphasized in most studies on gender politics. Sometimes, however, women’s movements are secondary players and sometimes they have no role at all. We can make sense of this variation by conceptualizing the impact of women’s movements as contingent upon the particular issue in question, the characteristics of the women’smovement (strength, autonomy, inclusiveness) (Weldon 2002, 2004 Stetson and Mazur 2005), and the relative ; strength of other actors (international NGOs and organizati ns). o Women’s movements, we contend, are more important for gender status policies than for class-based policies (Katzenstein 1989). Other agents, such as labor unions or left parties, are less likely to raise gender status issues or make them a priority. Because strong left parties can compensate for weak or even non-existent women’s movements, however, women’s movements are less critical for class-based gender equality policies (though they may still have an impact). Left parties: Some literature in women and politics emphasizes the importanceof left parties while other studies call this finding into question (Wolbrecht 2000). These contradictory findings can be resolved by taking the nature of the issue into account. Some policies are much more likely to be adopted under a left or labor party (such as maternity leave or day care), while party ideology is irrelevant for other issues, such as violence against women or abortion (Weldon 2002; Norris 1987; Mazur and Stetson 1995; Elman 1996). This is because the former invoke class-based patterns of social po licymaking while the latter do not. Thus, the ideology of the political party(on the left-right spectrum) may be irrelevant for gender status issues. For class-based policies, we expect to find that the ideology of the party in power (left-labor party) is important. Organized religion: The influence of religion on gender policy is profound. In the history of the West, for example, churches administered familylaw and marriage for centuries and in parts of the developing world they continue to do so (Glendon 1987; Glendon 1989). Yet religion seems irrelevant to policymaking on some issues such as 10

violence against women and gender quotas (Weldon 2002; Htun 2003). We argue that the salience of organized religion varies by type of issue. Where gender equality policies challenge the established doctrines of organized religion, the strength of organized religion will be a critical factor. The strength of organized religi n will largely irrelevant to nono doctrinal issues. International activist networks: International networks of actors—both intergovernmental and nongovernmental—work for change on women’s rights in various ways. They fund and train local activists; they pressure governments; they conduct s tudies and raise awareness; and they share ideas and resources across countries. Global agreements such as CEDAW and the Beijing Platform for action call on countries to reform discriminatory laws and adopt gender equality policies. They exert moral pressure for change and inspire the work of transnational networks and activists (Friedman et al 2005; Clark, 2001; Keck and Sikkink 1998; Risse-Kappan 1994) For issues that are both class-based and doctrinal, the power of both left parties and the influence of organized religion will be important. However, the strength and composition of the women’s movement can also be a critical factor, since additional allies increase the likelihood that an agent will prevail in procuring policy change. Thus, for these issues, we expect that all three national actors will be relevant. Features of the National Polity/Context Above, we argued that particular issues make particular political agents more or less relevant. Here, we show how context matters as much as agency because it determines agents’ self-understandings and the significance they attribute to particular issues. In different contexts, different agents may be more or less powerful. In this section, we identify features of the political context that seem most important for gender policy issues: vulnerability to international pressure, degree of democracy, state capacity, and institutional legacies. Vulnerability to International Pressure: Pressures for progressive change emanate from the international system in the form of inter-state treaties, regional diffusion of policy innovations, and transnational activist networks. These pressures resonate moreand less powerfully in differently-situated countries. Poor countries seeking financial capital and legitimacy are more vulnerable to international pressure than rich ones. Autocracies and emerging democracies are also under pressure to demonstrate their democraticand human rights credentials. In these circumstances, international NGOs are important actors. International actors will have a weaker effect on policies affecting women’s rights in advanced post-industrial societies and established democracies and a stronger effect on less developed countries and newer democracies. Degree of Democracy: The more democratic a country is, the more developed its civil society and the more open the government to autonomous organizing. Women’s groups, especially grass-roots movements or working-class women’s movement seeking


class-based policies, will have greater influence. Yet democracy has complex effects: at the same time as it empowers some women’s groups seeking reform it may also strengthen religious institutions opposed to change. Why? In competitive politics, governments need allies to defeat their opponents and religious organizations are often good alliance partners. They sometimes control vast social networks and may easily mobilize collective action (Gill 1998, 2005). We may therefore see religious influence increase as politics becomes more competitive At the other end of the spectrum, authoritarian regimes have less-developed, or non-existent, civil societies. Government elites have more control over decision-making. As this suggests, party or government ideology will be more important in more authoritarian contexts and civil society actors will be less important. They are not necessarily non-existent or unimportant, however. Elite women and women’s organizations (as opposed to their mass counterparts) tend to have better access to power under closed regimes than under democracies. In summary, political parties and party doctrine will be more determinative of gender policy outcomes in autocracies, less so in democracies. Elite-dominated women’s movements will be more influential in autocracies. Grassroots-based, more inclusive women’s movements will be more influential in democracies. The power of religious institutions to oppose reforms is greater in democracies than in non democracies. State capacity. State capacity refers to the effectiveness of national political institutions and their ability (not willingness) to enforce the law and to challenge dominant social groups and reform institutions. This dimension of institutional capacity is distinguished from the political weakness or strength of particular administrations. Some political parties might depend on the support of organized labor, or religious groups, but this changes depending on who is elected. Institutional capacity affects policy no matter who is governing. It is a structural feature of the state. Sexual inequality characterizes most societies in the world. This means that in most places, equality policies challenge social norms and traditions. Such policies are especially vulnerable to subversion during processes of implementation, and indeed, issues of enforcement and implementation bedevil efforts to legislate gender equality in every part of the world. In contexts with effective institutions, a government with a sufficient degree of political will can overcome social resistance. But in contexts without effective institutions, even a strong political commitment to gender equality can be easily frustrated. In places where political institutions are so incapacitated they are almost stateless, governments are completely unable to enforce some types of policies (O’Donnell 1993). Sexual equality requires an effective state. The state must be capable of intervening in society, in the workplace, and in the family to protect women from violence and promote the value of their work and concerns. Women in rural parts of Afghanistan or India cannot rely on the state to protect them from violence or discrimination. When the state is so weak that enforcing workplace discrimination policies or maternity leave policies seems a distant dream, women’s groups are less likely to push for these policies. They will be more likely


to focus on policies that present less of an enforcement challenge, or policies with a more significant symbolic dimension, such as quotas or constitutional reform Institutional Legacies of Processes of State Formation. Policy development is path dependent: institutions both reflect previous political conflicts and shape contemporary ones (Pierson 1994, 2000; March and Olsen 1989; Castles 1993; Richardson et al. 1992). Though many gender equality policies seem new and unprecedented, previous patterns of policymaking are still influential. In particular, processes of state formation and consolidation involve solving conflicts and creating particular compromises. These historically important moments shape policymaking for decades to come. Here we focus on two aspects of these institutional legacies: 1) whether the process of state formation creates a “group-based” or universalistic policy regime, and 2) whether processes of state formation insulate particular areas of women’s rights from the influence of electoral processes and other contestation over national policy.. Most societies historically did have and currently continue to have some degree of conflict across multiple axes of social difference (ethnicity, religion, class, gender). In every case, a particular cleavage takes on greater importance as a basis for state formation. Sometimes class solidarity provides the basis for overcoming ethnic or religious conflict; sometimes race solidarity provides a cross-class coalition; sometimes gender lines are the most critical (Marx 1998; Skocpol 1992). The specific way that these foundational conflicts are resolved affects policy development in later years. In some countries, these conflicts were resolved through a process of accommodation of religious, racial and/or ethnic groups (e.g. Canada, Israel, India). In return for their support for the state, elites are offered guarantees of political representation, areas of exclusive jurisdiction (education and/or family law), or other accommodations. Such a response to conflict entrenches group-based hinking in politics and makes it easier t for women’s organizing to advance arguments for policies that single women out as a group (gender status policies such as violence against women or quotas). Other countries (e.g. Norway) have responded to conflict by taking a universalistic path to nation building that emphasizes the solidarity of all citizens. Such universalistic traditions may reject claims by women as a distinct status group (Young 1990; McDonagh 2002), but may be amenable to claims about their class-based interests. Group-based traditions, on the other hand, help women’s rights advocates to draw analogies between women’s gender status and those of other marginalized groups but lack the solidaristic political culture required to support class-based policies (Esping Andersen 1990; Milner 1989). Political systems characterized by a group-based policy style (for example, nations with affirmative action policies for racial/ethnic groups in education or politics) will facilitate the adoption of gender status policies, while political systems characterized by universalistic policy style (universal income support) will be more likely to adopt classbased gender policies.


Various states—not just in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa but also in North and South America—haveceded jurisdiction over family law, reproduction, and other crucial areas affecting women’s rights to religious orders and to minority ethnic groups or tribes. In these contexts, changes in women’s rights depend on the private judgments of religious leaders or on changes in tribal leadership, processes likely to be insulated from women’s movement lobbying, party ideology, and pressure from international organizations. If the state were to make a policy decision, it would amount to the usurpation of religious or tribal authority. The ensuing conflict would touch upon not just the issue at hand but also the foundation of the political order. Change in women’s rights policies in these areas is therefore likely to be slow and to be rare. In most cases, this means that governments a re less likely to adopt policies promoting women’s rights. Causal Models Disaggregating gender policies reveals causal processes that areobscured when one considers gender policy as a single category. Our framework and theories imply different causal models for policy change depending on the type of issue, relevant actors, and features of the national polity. Table 2 specifies these models for each category of policy. The first column, generated from our typology of gender policy issues, gives the four categories of policy type. The second column identifies the relevant actors for each category. The (+) and (-) signs indicate the hypothesized effect each actor exerts on the prospects for change. The third and final column shows the effects of different national polity characteristics, often in interacti n with the actors from column 2. o Table 2. Issue-specific causal models
Dependent Variable: Policy Adoption (by type of policy) Class-Based NonDoctrinal Policies -maternity leave -federal funds for day care -workplace equality Independent Variables Relevant Actors Strength of Left Parties (+) Strength of Women’s Groups (+) National Polity Characteristics Policy Legacy: Universalistic (+)/ Group-based (-); (Historic accommodation of religious groups has no effect) Democracy: interacts with strong, grass-roots based women’s movement (+);interacts with a Weak and/or Elite dominated women’s movement (-); interacts with left parties (+) International vulnerability less relevant. State Capacity: Where states are so weak they cannot enforce basic laws, women’s groups are less likely to pursue these policies that require significant state capacity to implement. Policy Legacy: Universalistic (+)/ Group-based (-);Historic accommodation of religious groups (-) Democracy: interacts with a strong, grass-roots based women’s movement (+); interacts with a Weak, Elite dominated women’s movement (-); interacts with left parties (+) International vulnerability less relevant State capacity: Where class-based policies or doctrinal policies are difficult to enforce, women’s groups are less likely to pursue these

Doctrinal Class-Based -abortion funding -contraceptive funding

Strength of Left Parties (+) Strength of Women’s Groups (+) Strength of organized religion (-)


vigorously in weak states (weak (-); strong (+)) Policy Style: Universalistic (-)/Group -based (+);Historic accommodation of religious groups (-) More Democracy: weakens INGOs (+) and strengthens women’s groups (+) and organized religion (-) Vulnerability to International Pressurestrengthens international activist networks (+) State capacity: weak (-); strong (+) (Where doctrinal policies are difficult to enforce, women’s groups are less likely to pursue these vigorously in weak states) Gender Status non-Women’s groups Vulnerability to International Pressuredoctrinal And/or INGOs (in developing strengthens INGOs (+) --gender quotas in countries) (+) Policy Style: Universalistic (-)/Group-based politics (+);(Historic accommodation of religious groups -violence against has no effect) women More Democracy : weakens INGOs (+) and -constitutional equality strengthens women’s groups (+) and organized religion (-) State capacity: weak states make symbolic or easy to enforce policies (quotas, constitutional equality) more attractive to women’s groups (+); In strong states the reverse is true (-) Note: Each variable is marked to denote whether it makes adoption of equality-promoting policy more likely (+) or less likely (-). These effects are expected to be linear and additive except where noted. Gender Status Doctrinal -abortion legality -contraceptive legality -family law -Strength of Organized Religion (-) - Interaction of women’s groups and/or internatiobal activist networks (in developing countries) +

Applying the models These models help to explain variation in three dimensions: 1) across countries; 2) over time within countries; and 3) across issue areas within countries. They also generate specific predictions. Ideally, the models would be tested against a dataset where each observation marked a single policy in a certain country at a fixed point in time. Such a dataset does not presently exist, though we are in the process of constructing one. In this paper, we demonstrate the validity of the models in a preliminary fashion. First, we use the model to explain puzzling variations between the U.S. and Sweden. Next, we test theoretical predictions from the model against the history of gender policymaking in China, and return to contrast this experience with the Swedish pattern of policymaking. Finally, we explore why Latin American countries, to a much greater degree than other world regions, uniformly adopted gender quota laws and domestic vio lence policies in the 1990s. United States versus Sweden The United States has strong policies on violence against women, but the weakest maternity leave among advanced industrial states (Weldon 2002). Our models offers an explanation for this predicament. We argued that violence against women is a nondoctrinal gender status issue on which change is driven chiefly by domestc women’s i


movements.3 Maternity leave, by contrast, is a non-doctrinal class-based issue, where change is pushed by left wing parties and unions. In the U.S., the women’s movement is strong and autonomous and has been the catalyst behind change on VAW policy (Weldon 2002). More generous maternity leave policy would require strong unions and left parties (in addition to, or instead of, the women’s movement). But in the U.S., unions are weak and business lobbies are strong, thwarting policymaking on class-based issues. For example, the bill that ultimately became the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 was seen mainly as a labor or “family” related bill. “Although the proposal quickly gained supporters from labor unions and child-advocacy groups, they often had different definitions of the issue. Many did not support family leave as a measure to improve the status of women. Instead, they saw it as a labor issue, a way to extend jobprotected leave to a new category of employees, or as a children’s issue, a way to encourage strong parent-child bonding” (Stetson 1997, 270-271). Sweden shows the opposite pattern to the U.S. Unions and left parties are politically dominant over the same period. As a result, the government has adopted some of the most generous family leaves in the world (ILO 1994).Both men and women are entitled to a year of parental leave with full wages paid by the state. To promote gender role equality, the state requires both men and women to take at least one month of this leave But Sweden has lagged in other areas. It was relatively late to adopt policies on violence against women and late even to recognize such violence as a genuine problem (Weldon 2002; Elman 1996). This is because in Sweden, women’s movements are not organized independently of unions or left political parties, and must struggle to articulate gender issues as distinct from class issues. The Swedish women’s movement has been weak in comparison to the strong, autonomous movement in the U.S (Ibid). China Our models make several predictions about policymaking in an authoritarian, developing context such as China with its legacy of universal, socialist policies. First, we expect that party ideology should matter greatly since civil society is weak (to nonexistent). If any civic organizations are influential, they will be elite women’s groups. Religious groups should not have any influence. Second, the country’s universalistic policy style (as a socialist regime) implies that class-based policies will be emphasized more than genderstatus ones. However, doubts about state capacity to enforce social rights, particularly in the 1990s and 2000s, may cause women’s groups to make class-based policies a lesser priority than gender-status ones. Finally, China’s developing status means that international organizations will have more influence than they would in a richer country.


This is the case in countries relatively invulnerable to international pressure such as the large, wealthy, established democracy of the United States. In a poorer developing country, international organizations would play a bigger role in change.


How do these predictions hold up against the empirical record? In the first place, the history of gender policymaking has mirrored socialist ideology and the preferences of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Shortly after coming to power in 1949, the CCP adopted a radical marriage law in 1951. Intended to promoteequal rights and to smash patriarchal traditions, this law outlawed polygamy, arranged marriages, and child brides against the doctrine of religious and tribal groups.4 Labor laws adopted in su bsequent decades granted women generous maternity leave and required employers to provide day care (in a similar fashion to policy in other socialist countries). Though it promoted these class-based policies, the regime was less amenable to gender status policies such as violence against women and quotas for political representation. By 2007, there had been no legislative action in these areas.5 The Chinese regime is not ideologically opposed to status-based policies (otherwise it would not have introduced the 1951 marriage law). It merely picks and chooses such policies according to the needs of the state. Consider abortion policy: access to abortion is easy, not to elevate the status of women by permitting them greater control over their reproductive lives, but to assist in population control. International organizations have compelled the Chinese government to adopt other gender status policies. In 1992, the regime issued a comprehensive Women’s Rights Law. The law was influenced by CEDAW, academic sociologists and women’s studies scholars and drafted by lawyers special zing in gender and family issues.6 Also decisive was i Beijing’s desire to showcase new legislation before the upcoming Uni ed Nations World t Conference on Women, held in the Chinese capital in 1995. The first version of the Law was weak. Largely rhetorical, it merely organized rights that had already existed in ordinary legislation and served largely as propaganda.7 Elite women’s groups began pressuring soon after for its revision. This was only accomplished in 2005 when the government facedanother world conference. As Guo Jianmei explained, “The 2005 law was adopted in context of Beijing +10. In order to maintain its international reputation, the government had to show the public its efforts to improve women’s situations in China. The 2005 law did not reflect the ideas of the scholars, female lawyers and public opinion.” China v. Sweden A comparison between China and Sweden shows the difference that state capacity makes to women’s rights in universalist polities. Social policymaking in both China and Sweden is characterized by socialist rhetoric of universal citizenship and solidarity (Milner 1989; Howell 2004). But in China, women’s groups have eschewed a struggle to enforce maternity leave and day care policy because they see the state as less capable of enforcing these measures. Why? A major casualty of China’s economic boom has been workers’
4 5

Interview with Yang Dawen, Beijing, June 4, 2007; interview with Xu Anqui, Shanghai, May 28, 2007. Interviews with feminist lawyers, Beijing, June 4, 2007. 6 Interviews with Yang Dawen and Guo Jianmei, chair and vice-chair of drafting committee for women’s rights law, Beijing, June 4 and July ??, 2007. 7 Interview with Xu Anqui, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, May 28, 2007; Guo Jianmei, Beijing.


rights. In line with socialist ideals, Chinese law requires that employers grant numerous benefits to workers. Amidst explosive growth of the private sector, however, the state has been unable to enforce legal standards in all factories and workplaces. In this context, elite women’s groups are emphasizing policy changes such as non-discrimination in hiring and sexual harassment (through a revision of the Labor Contract Law and Women’s Rights Law) that are easier to enforce and require fewer financial outlays than paid maternity leave 8 In Sweden, in contrast, these class-based policies fit well with the legacy of many years of left-party dominance and a national commitment to social solidarity (Esping Andersen 1993; Milner 1989). Women’s movements in Sweden have encountered less resistance in the area of maternity and parental leave than they have in the area of violence against women, which requires more group-based thinking. Indeed, efforts by feminist activists to raise the issue of violence in Sweden were characterized as divisive, and counter to the value of solidarity and universalism, because they focused on women(Elman 1996). Thus, although party ideology and path-dependence in bot China and Sweden h would suggest that class-based policies would be most likely in both places, there was little change in Chinese government policy in these areas because women’s movements were discouraged by the seeming futility of pursuing measures the government would be unable to enforce. Latin America Between 1990 and 2005, ten countries in the region adopted national gender quota laws and at least 17 introduced legislation to prevent and punish violence against women (Htun 2001). Similar action did not occur in other areas. Abortion remains illegal in all countries and laws on maternity leave and day care have not improved since corporatist-era labor laws of the 1930s and 1940s (FLACSO 1991).9 Women’s groups have organizedfor change in all of these areas; international organizations have also exerted pressure. Yet the success rate varies dramatically by issue. Why? Our models offer some insights into recent patterns of policymaking. They help us understand the greater rate of change of some status policies (VAW, quotas) over others (abortion) and the greater propensity to adopt statusrather than class-based policies in this particular region. (Note that in other regions, such as among the Nordic countries, one might expect class-based po licies to be adopted more quickly than gender status policies, given the dominant pattern of social policymaking in the region). Table 3. Latin American policy changes in 1990s and 2000s Relationship to doctrine of organized religion Doctrinal Status- or classWomen’s status Abortion (no based policies improvement)
8 9

Non-doctrinal VAW (massive improvement)

Interviews, Beijing, June 4, 2007. In fact, abortion laws changed in the opposite direction in two countries: El Salvador and Nicaragua.


Class-based inequalities

Abortion funding Contraceptive funding (no improvement)

Gender quotas (massive improvement) Maternity leave Day care (no improvement)

Let us consider the first puzzle. Why did Latin America embrace VAW policies and quotas but not liberal abortion laws? Doctrinal policies like abortion are very difficult to change because they provoke moral outrage and political opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, the hegemonic religion in the region. Family law used to provoke similar outrage until Church doctrine changed to endorse equal righ in the 1960s around the time ts of the Second Vatican Council (Htun 200 As the region transitioned to democracy in the 3). 1980s, the political influence of the Church has grown (even, paradoxically, as the Church grew weaker relative to Protestant sects and its own inability to recruit seminarians). With VAW and gender quotas, international organizations joined forces with local activist groups to pressure for change (Htun 1998, 2001; Baldez 2004; Keck and Sikkink 1998; Krook 2005). Indeed, in the area of VAW, Latin American human rights activists were among the first to organize across national borders, working within the framework of the Organization of American States to develop the Inter-AmericanConvention on Violence Against Women. They were also quick to make the link between violence against women and the broader context of human rights violations (Weldon 2006b). Building networks, sharing resources, and lobbying governments, they were able to take advantage of these economically developing, new democracies’ desire for legitimacy abroad and effort to promote a favorable image on human rights. The same favorable combination did not extend to changes on class-based social rights, however. Why? In the first place, most Latin American governments assuming power in the 1990s were influenced by neo-liberal economics and committed to implementing stabilizing reforms, not to expanding state spending on generous leaves and day care centers. Non-doctrinal, gender status policies such as quotas and violence against women have two advantages in such acontext: unlike abortion, they do not confront the Church. Unlike parental leave and day care, they fail to excite the oppos ition of business lobbies and fiscal conservatives (especially those affiliated with international aid organizations). In addition, quota policies are relatively easy to adopt and monitor, making them especially attractive to women’s movements in states where the state has little capacity to monitor and enforcepolicy implementation. Conclusion In this paper we present a framework, theories, and models to explore for the variety of state-society relationships surrounding gender equality policy. We do not aim to explain every policy outcome everywhere in the world with a single theory or model, but


we hope to have provided some insight into the puzzles with which we began this discussion, thereby showing the fruitfulness of our analytical framework and theoretical approach: The question of why states promote gender equality in some areas not others; Why some poor countries have more generous gender equality policies than some rich countries; and why democratization sometimes seems to undermine progress in gender equality. These insights should prove helpful to advocates and scholars as they struggle to advance equality and freedom for the world’s women.


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