By Shireen Hassim
Three decades have passed since dramatic changes in authoritarian societies – the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of one-party and military regimes in Africa and Latin America – generated feminist interest in formal political institutions.
A substantial body of literature in the social sciences began to seriously address the question of what kinds of gains could be made by engaging the institutions of liberal democracy. It is possible now to trace the trajectory of these debates: from the theorisation of the possibilities of processes of transition for inserting feminist (or at least gender equality) claims into democratic pacts, to the building of transnational coalitions, to designing “friendly” institutions (such as national machineries and quotas representation), to studies of the performance of women in parliaments (both celebratory and, inevitably, critical), to studies of the impacts of legislation and policy.
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