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Article

Gendering Institutional Change  

Georgina Waylen

Many institutionalist scholars—historical institutionalists in particular—have recognized for some time that our understanding of institutional change needs to be improved. Taking this premise as a starting point, this article develops it by arguing that we not only need to understand institutional change better but that we also need to improve our understanding of how it is gendered. The chapter combines key elements from institutional analysis with recent gender and politics scholarship. This combination will form an analytical framework that can be used to examine how different instances of institutional change are gendered, highlighting, for example, the importance of some key concepts such as informal institutions and their role in either promoting or stymieing attempts to promote institutional change. After exploring the gaps in many current gender and politics analyses such as their capacity to explain many instances of institutional change, the paper charts the development of key insights on institutional change from both historical institutionalism and feminist institutionalism. It delineates different forms of institutional change and develops some key themes for each one that might enable us to better understand, not only how each is gendered, but also how far each form might be used by change actors as a gender equity strategy.

Article

Gender Equality Policies and European Union Politics  

Christina Fiig

The European Union (EU) has been characterized as a “gender regime” with its distinctive patterns of gender (in)equalities and path dependencies. Gender equality policies have developed as a genuine policy field over the past decades from a single treaty article to a comprehensive legal and political framework dealing with multiple sources of discrimination. Besides, gender equality policies are frequently linked to other political projects and policy goals. Gender equality is often presented as a foundational value of the EU with reference to the Treaties of Amsterdam and Lisbon. Research has pointed out that it is an important aspect of the foundational myth of the EU. The development of gender equality policies has been characterized by alternations between progress and stagnation. These policies are also met by resistance. However, a general conclusion is that EU institutions have been important catalysts in shaping women’s economic, political, and social equality in Europe and in putting equality rights into effect. Historical, political, and sociological interpretations of the EU’s gender equality policies illustrate these dynamics. Gender equality policies are described in terms of the following phases: the 1970s (associated with women’s civil and economic rights and equal treatment), the 1980s (equal opportunities, positive action), and the 1990s (gender mainstreaming in the whole union and for all policy areas). Since the 2000s, a fourth phase of new policies against multiple discrimination has been developing. These different stages of EU gender policy continue to coexist. When the Treaty of Amsterdam entered into force in 1999, the EU committed to a new approach to work for gender equality through mainstreaming. Gender equality and nondiscrimination became guiding legal principles of the union. The Treaty of Lisbon reflects core vaues of the EU such as democracy, human rights and gender equality. One can approach gender equality policies as situated between concerns for gender equality and multiple discrimination on the one hand and priorities of economy and finance on the other. Critical voices in the literature have pointed out that these priorities have outperformed ideas about gender equality. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, EU austerity policies represent a “critical juncture” that could undo the long-term progress achieved in gender equality in Europe. Besides, gender equality policies suffer from a gap between institutionalization on the one hand and a lack of consistency and full political commitment on the other. In a context of a more permanent crisis scenario in the EU, gender equality policies are undergoing transformations and they are subject to change to the worse. A key point is that dynamic gender relations, multiple discrimination, and women’s various roles in society matter for understanding the EU and European integration. This raises questions about the EU’s role as a driving force for gender equality and against multiple discrimination. What happened to gender equality policies and to gendered effects of other policies as a result of the various crises in the EU?

Article

Gender-Sensitive Parliaments  

Sonia Palmieri

While women have succeeded in promoting a feminist agenda in some parliaments, the international research shows that this is not always possible, and accordingly, not a realistic expectation for women. Parliaments, like any institution, have specific cultural norms and practices, some of which actively work against the advancement of gender equality. Understanding the conditions under which female—and male—parliamentarians might succeed in promoting gender equality outcomes has become an important avenue for research and development practice. The focus on gender-sensitive parliaments allows for a framework to identify, and encourage the development of, those conditions. There are four key elements of a gender-sensitive parliament. First, it accepts that the responsibility to achieve gender equality, both as a policy outcome and as a process, rests with the parliament as a whole (its male and female members and staff) and with the organizations that drive substantial policy, procedural, and normative development (political parties). Second, a gender-sensitive parliament is guided by institutional policies and legal frameworks, which allow the parliament to monitor its achievements toward gender equality and allow follow-up and review. Third, a gender-sensitive parliament institutionalizes a gender mainstreaming approach through its representational, legislative, and oversight work to ensure that all the parliament’s outputs consider, and counteract, any potential discrimination against women or men, girls or boys. This element requires a reconsideration of the process and structures of the parliament, including the respective roles and capacities of members and parliamentary staff. Fourth, a gender-sensitive parliament constantly strives to eliminate institutional cultures that sanction and perpetuate discriminatory, prejudicial norms and attitudes in the workplace against women members and staff.

Article

Women and Political Power in Brazil  

Pedro A. G. Dos Santos and Debora Thomé

Women have been historically excluded from positions of power in Brazil. Since the dawn of republicanism in the late 19th century, the political system has been dominated by men, and two long periods of authoritarianism stunted both the development of a strong women’s movement and the entrance of women into formal politics. Nevertheless, women have always been involved in the political process, and women’s groups have fought for women’s rights since the dawn of the republic. Successful examples include the suffrage movement, women’s movements that helped the return to democracy in the 1980s, and small victories such as domestic violence laws and maintenance of the status quo in the abortion law and reproductive rights. The end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century marked the slow increased presence of women in elected positions. The implementation of a gender quota law in 1996 and continued pressure by women politicians, those in the state apparatus, and women’s movements brought the issue of women’s representation to the forefront of debates about democratic development in Brazil. Although women still face strong barriers to enter the electoral arena, developments in the early 21st century such as the strengthening of the quota law show that the political space is slowly opening its doors to women.

Article

The Descriptive Representation of Women in Politics  

Magda Hinojosa

Women remain strikingly underrepresented in politics: as of 2020, women hold only 25% of seats in the world’s national legislatures. Studies of women’s descriptive representation can be divided into two broad categories. The first category of scholarship seeks to understand when, why, and how women are elected to political office. Earlier academic work on the descriptive representation of women primarily analyzed social (educational levels, workforce participation rates) and cultural factors to understand women’s descriptive underrepresentation in politics. Institutional factors emerged as a significant area of scholarship, buoyed by the adoption and near immediate success of gender quotas. Scholarship has also centered on political parties and contextual factors (candidate selection and recruitment processes, the effects of crisis). A second category of work examines the effects of women’s descriptive representation on the substantive and symbolic representation of women, and increasingly whether women’s descriptive representation begets more women in office. The scholarship on the relationship between descriptive and substantive representation has found strong evidence that having women in office results in the representation of women’s interests. Establishing how the descriptive representation of women affects citizen attitudes—such as their interest in politics and trust in government institutions—has yielded more mixed results. Nonetheless, the scholarship on the effects of women’s descriptive representation largely confirms that having women in office matters for outcomes related to policy and citizen attitudes. The rich work that has been done to date on women’s descriptive representation could benefit from expanding the definition of the term. Although scholars have relied on a head count of women in positions of power—and notably often just in the national legislature—to assess descriptive representation, a more expansive approach to defining women’s descriptive representation is needed. Researchers ought to consider other ways in which representatives can descriptively represent constituents, for example, by calling attention to their role as women in their parliamentary speeches. Moreover, the study of women’s descriptive representation would benefit from greater attention to women’s descriptive representation at subnational levels; too often, the proportion of women in the national legislature is equated with women’s descriptive representation, leaving out how women can be descriptively represented at other levels of office, in particular, in local positions. Examining within-country variation in women’s officeholding could be particular fruitful in understanding the factors that affect women’s descriptive representation, including the pipelines to higher office. Furthermore, studying differences in descriptive representation for elected versus appointed positions could prove instructive. In addition, more scholarship is needed that takes an intersectional approach to studying both the factors that help or hinder women’s descriptive representation and the ways in which descriptive representation affects substantive and symbolic representation.

Article

Regulation of Sexuality in the Global South  

Michelle L. Dion

Government regulation of sexuality includes prohibitions on same-sex intimacy, formation of families, and related rights of LGBT+ people due to their sexual orientation or gender identities. Countries in the Global South tend to lag behind those in the Global North in the recognition of LGBT+ rights, which overall tend to expand incrementally over time in response to LGBT+ activism, diffusion of international norms, and national economic, political and social context. Basic civil rights, including legalization of same-sex intimacy and marriage, are often a necessary precondition for LGBT+ access to the political right to organize and mobilize as an interest group as well as other social rights, such as health care and parental rights. In the developing world, Argentina and South Africa have been regional leaders in LGBT+ rights, and Latin America countries have tended to broaden protections earlier than countries at similar levels of development in Sub-Saharan Africa or Asia. Overall, in the early 21st century, the landscape of LGBT+ civil rights changed rapidly, while some political and social rights still lag behind.

Article

LGBT and Queer Politics in the Commonwealth  

Matthew Waites

The Commonwealth is the international governmental organization of states that emerged from the British empire, and since 2000 it has emerged as a focus for contestation relating to the regulation of same-sex sexualities, gender diversity, and diverse sex characteristics. Following colonial criminalizations focused on same-sex sexual acts, and later formal decolonizations, there have appeared many national movements for decriminalization and human rights in relation to sexuality and gender. The Commonwealth has emerged as a site of politics for some significant actors claiming human rights in relation to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics. This has been led by specific organizations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, increasingly with intersex people and allies, but it is also important to consider this in relation to queer people, understood more broadly here as people in all cultures experiencing forms of sexualities, biological sex and genders outside the social structure of heterosexuality, and its associated sex and gender binaries. A range of forms of activist and non-governmental organization (NGO) engagement have occurred, leading to shifts in Commonwealth civil society and among some state governments. This has required researchers to develop analyses across various scales, from local and national to international and transnational, to interpret institutions and movements. The British Empire criminalized same-sex sexual acts between males, and to a lesser extent between females, across its territories. In certain instances there were also forms of gender regulation, constraining life outside a gender binary. Such criminalization influenced some of those claiming LGBT human rights to engage the Commonwealth. Research shows that a majority of Commonwealth states continue to criminalize some adult consensual same-sex sexual activity. Yet the history of struggles for decriminalization and human rights within states in the Commonwealth has led up to such recent important decriminalizations as in India and Trinidad and Tobago in 2018. LGBT and queer activist engagements of the Commonwealth itself commenced in 2007 when Sexual Minorities Uganda and African allies demanded entry to the Commonwealth People’s Space during a Heads of Government meeting in Kampala. Activism has often focused on the biannual Heads of Government meetings that are accompanied by civil society forums. A particularly significant phenomenon has been the emergence of a “new London-based transnational politics of LGBT human rights,” evident in the creation from 2011 of new NGOs working internationally from the United Kingdom. Among these organizations was the Kaleidoscope Trust, which shaped the subsequent formation of The Commonwealth Equality Network as an international network of NGOs that became formally recognized by the Commonwealth. Significant developments occurred at the London Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in April 2018; Prime Minister Theresa May expressed “regret” for past imperial criminalizations while announcing funding for Kaleidoscope Trust and other UK-based groups to use in international law reform work. These developments exemplify a wider problematic for both activists and analysts, concerning how LGBT and queer movements should engage in contexts that are still structured by imperial legacies and power relations associated with colonialism, persisting in the present.

Article

LGBT People as a Relatively Politically Powerless Group  

Andrew Proctor

As a group engaged in struggles for representation and inclusion, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people have vied for access to social and political power. There is little dispute that LGBT people are a relatively powerless group in society, but the extent to which the group is powerless is subject to debate in political science. Scholars disagree over the extent of powerlessness because the definition of power is contested among political scientists. As such, scholars have examined the powerlessness of LGBT people in varying ways and reached different conclusions about the success the group has had in achieving rights and visibility. LGBT powerlessness emerges from the group’s status as sexual and gender minorities. Over time, the boundaries that constitute the group have shifted in response to power asymmetries between LGBT people and cisgender, heterosexuals who control access to political and social institutions. In addition, power asymmetries have emerged within the LGBT community at the intersection of race, class, and gender as well as across subgroups of the acronym LGBT. Thus, the distribution of power and powerlessness vary within the group as well as between the group and dominant groups in society. These within- and across-group variations in power shape LGBT group boundaries, representation and public opinion, and voting behavior. The powerlessness of LGBT people must be understood in relation to these contingencies that define the group’s boundaries, and the ways in which power is distributed within and across groups.

Article

Political Recruitment and Candidate Selection in Latin America  

Peter M. Siavelis and Scott Morgenstern

Candidate recruitment and selection is a complex and opaque process that drives political outcomes and processes. Further, the process of candidate selection is notoriously difficult to study because of its informal nature, the multiplicity of actors involved, and because politicians may prefer to obfuscate their motives when asked about their decisions. Still, the literature has made advances in understanding recruitment and selection (R&S) and this article explores this crucial and understudied topic with respect to Latin America. Much literature has considered the importance of political institutions to candidate selection, but these explanations alone are insufficient. Analyses of political institutions have significantly advanced in the region, but in isolation, their explanatory power can fall short, as evident in examples where similar institutional frameworks yield different outcomes . This suggests the need to include informal processes when analyzing candidate recruitment and selection procedures. Then, armed with a more complete understanding of the processes, we can better assess the impacts of candidate choice on political outcomes. There is extensive work on recruitment and candidate selection in Latin America that focuses on executives, legislators, and gender. Each of these themes provides multiple examples of how outcomes are determined through a combination of formal institutions and informal practices. . The region’s politics have been trending towards more formal, open, and inclusive processes. This is largely a result of the belief that there is a crisis of representation for which parties are to blame. Reformists have thus championed more inclusive selection processes as an antidote to the problem of low-quality representation. By themselves, however, these reforms are insufficient to enhance the quality of democracy and they can have high associated costs for the democratic system. Therefore, the multiple consequences of the R&S process—intended and hidden—should raise caution for scholars and reformers.

Article

Europe’s Supranational Courts and LGBT Rights  

M. Joel Voss

Europe has some of the most powerful human rights legal institutions in the world including two supranational human rights courts—the Council of Europe’s European Court of Human Rights and the European Union’s Court of Justice (hereafter, together—the Courts). After decades of relative quiet, the Courts have begun hearing more cases concerning LGBT rights. Judgments of the Courts have advanced some facets of LGBT rights like anti-discrimination in the workplace while disappointing gay-rights advocates in other areas, for example family life and asylum. Scholarship on European courts and LGBT rights is not as developed as scholarship on norm advocacy or policy diffusion within states in Europe. The research that does exist looks at how decisions by the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice deal with current European law, how the institutions are designed, or how the supranational courts may act as agents of change or status quo institutions in shaping wider European behavior. This lack of newer research on the Courts presents ample opportunity for new avenues of research that examines not only how decisions are made at the Courts but also how states implement decisions and how states view the legitimacy of each Court.