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date: 25 May 2017

Gender-Sensitive Parliaments

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Please check back later for the full article.

While some women have been successful in promoting a feminist agenda in parliament, the research shows that this is not always a realistic expectation of women. Parliaments, as institutions, have specific cultural norms and practices, some of which actively work against women’s ability to advance gender equality. Understanding the conditions under which women—and men—parliamentarians might be successful in promoting gender equality outcomes has become an important avenue for research and development practice. The focus on gender-sensitive parliaments allows for a framework to identify and encourage the development of those conditions.

There are four key elements of a gender-sensitive parliament. First, it accepts that the responsibility to achieve gender equality, both as a policy outcome and as a process, rests with the parliament as a whole—its male and female Members and staff—and with the organizations that drive substantial policy development: political parties. Second, a gender-sensitive parliament is guided by overarching policies and legal frameworks, which allow the parliament to monitor its achievements towards gender equality and allow for follow up and review. Third, a gender-sensitive parliament institutionalizes a gender mainstreaming approach through its plenary debates, question sessions, committees, and caucuses to ensure that all policy and legislative reviews interrogate any potential discrimination against women or men, girls or boys. Finally, a gender-sensitive parliament fosters a culture of respect for women and their right to be an equal member of parliament.