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When and why do states respond to women's claims

DEV Key Contact: Nitya Rao
Project Dates: April 2013 - December 2015
Project Status: Live

Funder

This research seeks to understand how policy change to strengthen women's rights occurs. When and why do states respond to women's claims-making? What are the factors and conditions under which non-state actors can effectively trigger and influence policy change? What are the mechanisms necessary to ensure that issues get on the policy agenda?

The project aims to contribute insights into:

  1. the complex processes through which advocates for women's rights articulate their demands, and strategize with other actors both within and outside the state realm, and transnationally, to bring about policy change;
  2. the "blind spots" or issues on which there has been little advocacy, or where advocacy does not enter policy debates, despite their centrality to women's lives and wellbeing; and
  3. the proactive role of other actors, nationally and transnationally in triggering policy change.

To capture diversity in both governance systems and socio-political contexts across Asia, the research will be conducted in three of the largest and most diverse countries of the region: China, India and Indonesia. Their size, different political systems (central/federal), with varying levels and degrees of democratization and decentralization/regional and local autonomy, and other forms of diversity (ethnic, religious, geographic, etc.) suggest that understanding what happens in these countries potentially has enormous significance for understanding gender equality policies and obstacles to change elsewhere.

The research seeks to examine the hypothesis that different factors are at play in determining the effectiveness of claims-making processes across different issue areas. Some gender equality issues, such as abortion and family laws, are controversial because they challenge organised religion (e.g the Catholic Church) or codified cultural traditions backed by patriarchal institutions. In many countries, it has been easier to pass legislation establishing quotas for women-held seats in legislatures or local governments, than to challenge customary practices and laws governing marriage, divorce, property rights and inheritance. The two specific issues selected for in-depth comparative analysis across the three countries are violence against women and the rights of migrant women/domestic workers. There has been considerable mobilisation by women's rights advocates around both these issues in recent decades. Additionally, attention will be paid throughout the research to two sets of issues where advocacy and claims-making has been either less visible (in the case of care work), or more difficult (family law and inheritance).

When and Why do States Respond to Women's Claims? (PDF)

A video of the UNRISD Seminar Claiming Their Rights: HOw Women's Movements Mobilize for Policy Change can be viewed here.