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Informal Institutions, Protest, and Change in Gendered Federal Systems

  • Lee Ann Banaszak (a1) and S. Laurel Weldon (a2)

Federalism seems to play a widely varying role in maintaining or undermining gender hierarchies around the world. In 1869, for example, federalism allowed Wyoming—a new state in the United States—to enfranchise women before this happened at the national level. But in Switzerland, federalism let a recalcitrant canton disenfranchise women until the 1990s—20 years after women achieved the vote on the national level (Banaszak 1996). More generally, federal institutions are associated with widely varying policies on women's rights. Table 1 groups countries according to Lijphart's (1999, Chapter 10) three measures of federalism: a numerical summary measure (column 2), whether the country is centralized or decentralized (column 3), and a dichotomous measure of federal or unitary based on the country's constitution (column 4). No matter which measure is used, gender equality policies vary greatly within each type of system. The wide variation within each category suggests that standard approaches to federalism give us little purchase on gender politics.

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