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Gender and Foreign Policy  

Alexis Leanna Henshaw

While explicit efforts at gender mainstreaming in foreign policy are relatively recent, a view of foreign policy through a feminist lens illustrates that foreign policy has always been gendered. Feminist scholarship in this area suggests that masculinity has historically shaped foreign policy in important ways, while the increased presence of women in national governments, government cabinets, and the diplomatic corps has produced some notable change in policy outcomes. An examination of two key concepts related to policymaking and gender—securitization and gender mainstreaming—shows how gender issues have come to the forefront of national and international security agendas since 2000. In particular, the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda promulgated by the United Nations has obligated individual states to address gendered security issues, and dozens of countries have responded with their own National Action Plans. While these national efforts have led to some improvement in the status of women and related humanitarian outcomes, feminist scholars generally agree that the WPS agenda has stalled in its efforts to produce transformative change. As a way forward, feminist foreign policy stances promise to produce more comprehensive outcomes, though a backlash toward gender mainstreaming and the re-emergence of more traditional security threats has led to questions about the future of such efforts.

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

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?