Violence Against Women: A Comparative Analysis of Progress on Women's Human Rights
30 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 1 May 2013
Date Written: August 20, 2010
This paper attempts to account for cross-national and cross-temporal patterns of government action on violence against women. Our theoretical approach focuses on the interaction between the mobilization of women’s movements and the institutional context. But, we argue, the balance of domestic and international factors varied in different regions and over time. Between 1975 and 2005, an international norm developed treating violence against women as a fundamental question of human rights. This shaped the relative importance of domestic and international factors for state policy. As this suggests, countries that adopted policies on violence against women later were more influenced by international norms than were early adopters (like Canada and Australia). In our latest cross-section, international influences came to have more weight than domestic factors. Our unique dataset allows us to show both the power of the general argument and the ways the process varies across countries, regions and over time.
This analytic approach gives us more insight into patterns of government response to violence against women over time and around the world than explanations focusing on political parties, electoral systems, culture, religion and the number of women in government. This is not true for all areas of women’s rights, however. The nature of the violence issue - touching upon women’s status as a group and the social value and meaning of women’s bodies - renders women’s mobilization and international institutions particularly important. The salience of these variables also owes to the relative absence of religious activism (in contrast to issues such as abortion or family law) and activism on the part of organized economic interests such as unions or chambers of commerce (as is the case for policies on parental leave and child care).
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