Democracy, Oil, or Religion? Expanding Women’s Rights in the Muslim World


Chaturvedi, Neilan S., and Orlando Montoya. 2013. “Democracy, Oil, or Religion? Expanding Women’s Rights in the Muslim World.” Politics and Religion 6 (3): 596–617. doi:10.1017/S1755048312000648.

Authors: Neilan S. Chaturvedi, Orlando Montoya


Of the 45 Muslim majority countries in the world, 42 have signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. While this does indeed signal a motive to improve women’s rights, there is wide disparity in terms of which countries expand rights and which do not. Social science literature suggests that in addition to economic factors like wealth and oil resources, or political factors like the quality of democracy in the country, Islamic culture may be at odds with the Western conception of women’s rights. We posit that Muslim countries are unique in this regard due to religious pressures that often conflict with conventional measures of human rights. Using data from the Cingranelli-Richards Human Rights Dataset and the Religion and State Project, we find that Muslim countries that restrict the influence of fundamentalist religion in the government and population improve women’s economic and social rights.

Topics: Democracy / Democratization, Economies, Extractive Industries, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Political Participation, Rights, Women's Rights Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East

Year: 2013

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