Gender Hierarchies

Political Gender Equality and State Human Rights Abuse


Melander, Erik. 2005.  “Political Gender Equality and State Human Rights Abuse.” Journal of Peace Research 42 (2): 149–66.

Author: Erik Melander


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.

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Political Participation, Rights, Human Rights

Year: 2005

Umoja - No Men Allowed

"UMOJA (Kiswahili for “unity”) tells the life-changing story of a group of impoverished tribal Samburu women in Northern Kenya who turn age-old patriarchy on its head by setting up a women-only village. Their story began in the 1990s, when several hundred women accused British soldiers from a nearby military base of rape. In keeping with traditional Samburu customs, the women were blamed for this abuse and cast out by their husbands for bringing shame to their families. 

Gender and War: Causes, Constructions, and Critique


Prugl, Elisabeth. 2003. “Gender and War: Causes, Constructions, and Critique.” Perspective on Politics 1 (2): 335–42.

Author: Elisabeth Prugl

Keywords: Gender, war, cultural construction, gender codes, gender roles



"How does gender relate to war? Cultural constructions and gendered codes of domination carry the main weight in Goldstein’s explanation, which he develops after discussing the evidence from biology and anthropology. This evidence disconfirms the significance of genetic codes, male-bonding practices, or differential group loyalties in explaining warlike behavior among men. With regard to male and female hormones, Goldstein finds complicated feedback loops between culture and biology that similarly undermine suggestions of a biological hardwiring of difference. And he finds that the slight differences between women and men in size and strength, in cognitive abilities, and in the orientation toward status hierarchies combine with gender segregation in childhood to offer some explanation for a tendency to associate combat with men, but not enough to account for the categorical difference of gender roles in warfare. The evidence leads him to probe cultural constructions, as well as sexual and economic domination." (335)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Men, Gender Hierarchies, Military Forces & Armed Groups

Year: 2003

Securing Women’s Interests within Land Tenure Reforms: Recent Debates in Tanzania


Tsikata, Dzodzi. 2003. “Securing Women’s Interests within Land Tenure Reforms: Recent Debates in Tanzania.” Journal of Agrarian Change 3 (1-2): 149-83.

Author: Dzodzi Tsikata


This article is an account of the debates around the recent land tenure reforms in Tanzania. It focuses on the discourses of Government officials, academic researchers and NGO activists on the implications of the reforms for women's interests in land and the most fruitful approaches to the issues of discriminatory customary law rules and male–dominated land management and adjudication institutions at national and village levels. The article argues that from being marginal to the debates, women's interests became one of the most contentious issues, showing up divisions within NGO ranks and generating accusations of State co–optation and class bias. It illustrates the implications of the recent positive reappraisal of African customary laws and local–level land management institutions for a specific national context, that of Tanzania.

Keywords: land reform, women, customary law

Topics: Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies, Land Tenure, Governance, NGOs, Rights, Land Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Tanzania

Year: 2003

Embodying Transition: FGC, Displacement, and Gender-Making for Sudanese in Cairo


Fábos, Anita Häusermann. 2001. "Embodying Transition: FGC, Displacement, and Gender-Making for Sudanese in Cairo." Feminist Review 69: 90-110.

Author: Anita Häusermann Fábos


In this article I analyze both generalized propriety as a boundary marker of Sudanese identity in Cairo, and gendered attitudes toward morality and female genital cutting (FGC) as a fundamental aspect of that boundary. Sudanese have been profoundly affected by the ongoing political crisis in their home country, by the displacement triggered by political and economic collapse, and by their deteriorating legal and social status in Egypt. The dramatic changes in the circumstances of Sudanese residence in Cairo have challenged the cultural norm of gender complementarity as men 'stay at home' for want of work while women seek and find new opportunities for themselves. This unstable situation has led Sudanese to place more emphasis on 'proper' ways of behaving and being, an assertion that helps define the ethnic boundaries of the Sudanese community in Cairo. I demonstrate the inconsistencies between discourse and reality through ethnographic data while analyzing how Sudanese have found new ways of asserting their identity and resisting the practice of FGC.

Keywords: displacement, gender making, gendered identity, female genital cutting


In her article, Fabos seeks to answer the question of which FGC (female genital cutting) practices have persisted among the Muslim population in Sudan despite social and political change in the region. She analyzes the situation of Sudanese women who have migrated to Cairo (mainly due to the civil war in Sudan), exploring the implications of changing gender norms brought about by their displacement and using FGCs as a boundary marker for the Sudanese ethnic identity in Cairo. She argues that Sudanese attitudes toward FGC have shifted in recent years, as Sudanese migrants to Cairo have used the practice to distinguish themselves from Egyptian natives. The experience of displacement had altered both gender relations and propriety norms, leading to new conflicts between men and women involving sexuality and morality.

Because of the increased levels of migration among Sudanese to Cairo due to the ongoing crisis in Sudan, Sudanese social ideals and traditions are being challenged in a new way. The mass migration of Sudanese to Cairo is leading to deteriorating household structures and financial situations, which necessitates a shift in gender roles and relations. For example, the concept of gender “complementarity,” which is based upon the notion that the husband should earn the household income while the mother rears the children, is not conducive to the situation of the Sudanese populations in Cairo, where the traditional family structure is often dismantled.

Fabos also addresses the way in which conceptions of modesty among the Sudanese population have changed as a result of migration to Cairo. In an attempt to preserve their values, the displaced Sudanese in Cairo often characterize Egyptians as immodest, including the failure to practice FGC into this definition of immodesty. These gender ideals that link modesty with sexual propriety and other traditional Arab values informs the social interactions of Sudanese men and women in Cairo.

Because morality and sexual propriety are considered endemic to a Sudanese woman’s gendered identity, FGC represents the embodiment of these cultural ideals. FGC is therefore seen as a rite of passage for Sudanese women; however, it is rejected by many Sudanese women who deny a correlation between their morality and their sexual behavior. While it may be expected that instances of FGC would increase among the Sudanese populations in Cairo in an effort to assert their conservative identity, it has been prevented by dissent among displaced Sudanese women who refuse to subject their daughters to the torture of the practice.

Fabos concludes by reiterating the fact the gendered attitudes toward FGC are an intrinsic part of the conception of propriety that marks Sudanese identity in Cairo. As Sudanese communities are resisting the practice of FGC today, they are finding new ways of asserting their identity in foreign cities such as Cairo.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Ethnicity, Gender, Women, Girls, Gender Roles, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies, Households, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexuality Regions: Africa, MENA, East Africa, Asia, Middle East Countries: Egypt, Sudan

Year: 2001

Migration and the Transformation of Gender Roles and Hierarchies in Yucatan


Bever, Sandra Weinstein. 2002. "Migration and the Transformation of Gender Roles and Hierarchies in Yucatan." Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development 31 (2): 199-230.

Author: Sandra Weinstein Bever


This study explores how gender relations and gender roles have been modified as a result of temporary male outmigration in a Yucatec Maya community. To understand the changes in gender relations brought about by migration the author provides a comparative analysis between migrant and non-migrant households. Moreover, the author examines intra-household gender relations and reveals how gender roles and gender ideologies are contested, reinforced and renegotiated in migrant and non-migrant households. One way to explore intra-household relations is by documenting the extent of control that men and women have over household expenses. A closer look at patterns of income allocation within migrant and non-migrant households illustrates how husbands and wives negotiate decision-making in the household and how intra-household gender hierarchies are established.  The findings suggest that while there may be obvious transformations in gender roles, gender ideology continues to be strongly defended by both men and women in this Yucatec Maya community.

Keywords: migration, gender transformation


  • In her article, Bever argues that male outmigration impacts intra-household gender roles in the Yucatec Maya community of Sudzal, in which migration activity generates 43% of the city’s income. She looks at data from 1997-1998 from both migrant and non-migrant households in order to gather information on their comparative household decision-making, gender roles, gender ideology, and gender relations.
  • In Maya communities, men are seen as the primary economic provider in the household. Because of the high levels of labor migration among men today, however, women have begun to enter the workforce in order to supplement their husbands’ income. The increase in women’s involvement in the labor force has led to a shift in gender roles that conflicts with traditional gender ideology. In her study, Bever finds that the division of labor among husbands and wives is much more equal in migrant households than non-migrant households. The majority of wives in both migrant and non-migrant households maintain, however, that their husbands’ work is the most important economic activity.
  • In her section entitled “Patterns of income allocation in migrant and non-migrant households,” Bever assesses the socioeconomic impact of temporary labor migration on the household and on gender relations. She distinguishes between “pooling households,” in which the incomes of husbands and wives are combined and the husbands control the family’s budget, and non-pooling households, in which the husband’s earnings are the sole contribution to the household’s budget. While women do contribute financially to the household in these pooling households, traditional gender ideologies still prevent women from realizing their roles as household providers. Generally, women who decide to earn an income without their husbands’ consent do so out of desperation, and this oftentimes creates tension in these husband-wife relationships, as they are seen as challenging their husbands’ authority.
  • Bever turns to a comparison between women in migrant and non-migrant households, arguing that while women in migrant households have more of an opportunity (and necessity) to enter the workforce and provide for their families, oftentimes, they would rather fulfill the role of caretaker and housewife than produce an income. She also finds that young migrant wives feel more pressure to obey their husbands and stay at home than do older migrant wives since they have not yet earned the respect of their husbands and they rely on their husbands to provide enough financially for their children. This supports her argument that when women do challenge their husband’s economic authority, it is usually out of pragmatism and necessity rather than a desire to change gender ideologies. Bever concludes that while the gender roles of Yucatec Mayan women are changing, traditional gender ideology continues to be upheld.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Migration, Gender, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies Regions: Americas, North America Countries: Mexico

Year: 2002

Gay Rights in Uganda: Seeking to Overturn Uganda's Anti-Sodomy Laws


Hollander, Michael. 2009. "Gay Rights in Uganda: Seeking to Overturn Uganda's Anti-Sodomy Laws." Virginia Journal of International Law 50: 219-66.

Author: Michael Hollander


Sections of the Ugandan Penal Code criminalizing sodomy were imposed during colonial rule, but have been fully integrated into Ugandan social norms and culture.  This article argues for a national and international framework that together might lead to the repeal of discriminatory legislation.  However, it cautions that changes to the law must be coupled with changes in the cultural, public, and religious perceptions of homosexuality which are deeply entrenched at this time.

This essay presents a comprehensive legal argument for overturning the anti-sodomy laws (as documented in Sections 145, 146, and 148 of the Uganda Penal Code Act) that have been adopted by the Ugandan government during the post-colonial era. Hollander uses “both a national constitutional framework and an international framework that includes treaties, other international agreements, and a developing international consensus that persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) individuals is a human rights violation” in presenting his argument.

Keywords: human rights, law

Topics: Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies, Governance, Constitutions, International Law, LGBTQ, Religion, Rights, Human Rights, Sexuality Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Uganda

Year: 2009

Full Cover Girl: How Fundamentalism and Democracy are Eroding Women's Rights in Iraq


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