No Democratic Transition Without Women's Rights: A Global Sequence Analysis 1900-2012
52 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2015 Last revised: 24 May 2016
Date Written: September 1, 2015
What determines countries’ successful transition to democracy? Research has focused on socioeconomic and institutional factors, yet the assumption that political liberalization has to precede democratization has not been systematically examined. We explore the impacts of granting civil rights in authoritarian regimes and especially the gendered aspect of this process. We argue that both men’s and women’s liberal rights are essential conditions for democratization to take place: giving both men and women rights reduce an inequality that affects half of the population, thus increasing the costs of repression for authoritarian rulers, and enabling the formation of women’s movements – historically important as a spark of protests in initial phases of democratization. We test this argument empirically using data that cover 160 countries over the years 1900–2012 and contain more nuanced measures than commonly used. Through sequence analysis we obtain results suggesting that liberal rights for both men and women enhance civil society organizations, and then lead to electoral democracy. The results suggest that influential modernization writings – stressing the role of economic development in democratization processes – may partly have been misinformed in their blindness for gender. The reported pattern may be at least part of the explanation of the ‘Arab spring’ failures.
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