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Looking beyond Ratification: Autocrats’ International Engagement with Women’s Rights

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 March 2023

Audrey L. Comstock*
Arizona State University, USA
Andrea Vilán
American University, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:


Although authoritarian regimes often repress the rights of women, many autocrats have committed to international treaties protecting women’s human rights. Scholars have typically overlooked this engagement, focusing instead on autocrats’ commitment (and violation) of treaties protecting civil, political, and physical integrity rights. Yet existing explanations for autocrats’ ratification of these treaties—such as appeasing domestic opposition groups—do not necessarily apply to women’s rights (von Stein 2013). As authoritarian international law is increasingly viewed as an important area of study (Ginsburg 2020), scholars should explore how authoritarian regimes navigate participation regarding women’s rights issues, including their engagement with the main women’s rights treaty, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). After taking a closer look at how autocracies shape, commit, and challenge women’s rights internationally, we suggest several research directions to build this area of study.

Critical Perspectives Article
© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Women, Gender, and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association

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