UN Women Policy Briefs

The UN Women policy brief series synthesizes research findings, analysis and policy recommendations on key policy areas around gender equality and women’s rights in an accessible format. The series aims to bridge the research and policy divide by identifying issues that require urgent policy attention and propose a set of suitable measures to address them. The series is a joint effort of UN Women’s Policy Division, coordinated by the Research and Data Section. To ensure the quality and relevance of the content, each brief undergoes a rigorous internal and external peer review process. These concise and relevant policy-oriented documents are useful resources for gender equality advocates, civil society and other policy actors working to achieve gender equality and women’s rights.

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Why and How Constitutions Matter for Advancing Gender Equality

Gains, Gaps and Policy Implications

Constitutions are the most authoritative expressions of States’ systems of governance and accountability and therefore pose potential opportunities for and threats to the advancement of gender equality. This policy brief outlines the gains and gaps in gender-responsive constitution-making over the years and the policy lessons that can be drawn from these for ongoing constitutional and post-constitutional reforms. It finds that there has been a significant growth in genderresponsive constitutions since the 1980s. However, it argues that while this is an important achievement, the persistence of gender discriminatory provisions in some constitutions as well as the lack of a clear pathway between constitution-making and policy and legislative change tends to diminish the contribution of constitutions to gender equality efforts. It examines strategies that have been used by different players for achieving gender-responsive constitutional changes and pinpoints examples of situations in which reforms have been harnessed for positive advances in jurisprudence, policy and legislation.


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