Democratization, Women’s Movements, and Gender-Equitable States: A Framework for Comparison

Date Published:

Aug 1, 2008


There is a rich collection of case studies examining the relationship between democratization, women’s movements, and gendered state outcomes, but the variation across cases is still poorly understood. In response, this article develops a theoretically-grounded comparative framework to evaluate and explain cross-national variations in the gendered outcomes of democratic transitions. The framework highlights four theoretical factors—the context of the transition, the legacy of women’s previous mobilizations, political parties, and international influences—that together shape the political openings and ideologies available to women’s movements in transitional states. Applying the framework to four test cases, we conclude that women’s movements are most effective at targeting democratizing states when transitions are complete, when women’s movements develop cohesive coalitions, when the ideology behind the transition (rather than the ideology of the winning regime) aligns easily with feminist frames, and when women’s past activism legitimates present-day feminist demands. These findings challenge current conceptualizations of how democratic transitions affect gender in state institutions and provide a comparative framework for evaluating variation across additional cases.


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