Political Gender Equality and State Human Rights Abuse

Authored by: Erik Melander

Categories: Human Rights, Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Democratization and Political Participation
Region: No Region
Year: 2005
Citation: Melander, Erik. “Political Gender Equality and State Human Rights Abuse.” Journal of Peace Research 42, no. 2 (March 2005): 149–66.

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Feminist theorists argue that more equal societies that are not based on gender hierarchies ought to be less plagued by collective violence. This study tests whether political gender equality is associated with lower levels of personal integrity rights abuse carried out by state agents, such as fewer political imprisonments, torture, killings, and disappearances. Two indicators of political gender equality are used: (1) a dummy indicating that the chief executive of a state is a woman; and (2) the percentage of women in parliament. The impact of political gender equality on personal integrity rights abuse is tested using multiple regression techniques and a dataset spanning most countries of the world during the period 1977–96. Female chief executives are rare, and their tenures are not significantly associated with the level of abuse. The percentage of women in parliament is associated with lower levels of personal integrity rights abuse. Results show both a direct effect of female representation in parliament and an effect in interaction with the level of institutional democracy. These results hold when controlling for the most important factors known or suspected to influence human rights behavior: democracy, leftist regime, military regime, British colonial experience, civil war, international war, wealth, population, ethnic heterogeneity, and regime transition and collapse.