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Protest, Policy, and the Problem of Violence against Women

Protest, Policy, and the Problem of Violence against Women: A Cross-National Comparison

S. Laurel Weldon
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Protest, Policy, and the Problem of Violence against Women
    Book Description:

    Violence against women is one of the most insidious social ills facing the world today. Yet governmental response is inconsistent, ranging from dismissal to aggressive implementation of policies and programs to combat the problem. In her comparative study of thirty-six democratic governments, Laurel Weldon examines the root causes and consequences of the differences in public policy from Northern Europe to Latin America.

    She reveals that factors that often influence the development of social policies do not determine policies on violence against women. Neither economic level, religion, region, nor the number of women in government determine governmental responsiveness to this problem. Weldon demonstrates, for example, that Nordic governments take no more action to combat violence against women than Latin American governments, even though the Swedish welfare state is often considered a leader in social policy, particularly with regard to women's issues.

    Instead, the presence of independently organized, active women's movements plays a greater role in placing violence against women on the public agenda. The breadth and scope of governmental response is greatly enhanced by the presence of an office dedicated to promoting women's status.

    Weldon closes with practical lessons and insights to improve government action on violence against women and other important issues of social justice and democracy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7234-1
    Subjects: Political Science, Law, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  2. 1 Introduction: From Protest to Policy
    (pp. 1-28)

    In 1979 in a small town in Maharashtra, India, protests erupted in response to the gang rape of a fourteen-year-old girl, Mathura, by local police. The case made its way through the Indian criminal justice system, and the High Court convicted the rapists. However, the Supreme Court reversed the High Court judgment and suggested that Mathura was of loose morals. The resultant outrage spawned a nationwide antirape movement, which demanded the reopening of the case and amendments in the rape law (Patel 1991). In Canada, in 1991, the Supreme Court struck down the 1983 “rape shield law” that had protected...

  3. 2 Culture, Development, Parties, and Policies on Violence Against Women
    (pp. 29-60)

    Which governments do the most to address violence against women, and which do the least? In this chapter I provide a global overview of government responsiveness to violence against women and explore the utility of some common explanations for cross-national policy differences. Most comparative studies attempt to control for cultural differences and level of development by avoiding cross-national and especially cross-regional studies (Peters 1998 ). Cultural differences are thought to be especially important in explaining policies that affect women (Conway, Ahern, and Steuernagel 1995 ). This is one reason that most comparative studies of women and public policy avoid comparisons...

  4. 3 Social Movements and Policies to Address Violence Against Women
    (pp. 61-86)

    Social movements, such as the women’s movement, the environmental movement, and the civil rights movement, have important, long-term effects on democratic political systems. In addition to provoking or stopping particular government actions, such movements have been credited with changing social values and transforming government institutions (Rochon and Mazmanian 1993; Bystydzienski and Sekhon 1999; Costain and Mc-Farland 1998; Dryzek 1990; Piven and Cloward 1993). Do social movements affect government responsiveness to violence against women? If so, how?

    In this chapter, I find that strong, independently organized women’s movements improve government responsiveness to violence against women. In fact, women’s movements are a...

  5. 4 The Effect of Women in Government on Policies on Violence Against Women
    (pp. 87-104)

    As social movements, women’s movements are the first to identify the issue of violence against women and put it on the public agenda. But issues on the public agenda do not always make it onto the government agenda (Kingdon 1984). Sometimes governments ignore these public articulations, or take them up halfheartedly. What determines whether these public articulations are translated into policy action?

    Many recent studies of the impact of women legislators on public policy conclude that the existence of a greater proportion of women in elected office makes governments more responsive to women’s concerns. Although much of this research focuses...

  6. 5 Sexing the State: The Impact of Political Institutions on Policies on Violence Against Women
    (pp. 105-137)

    Many activists believe that institutional reforms will improve government responsiveness to violence against women and women’s issues in general. In India, one report on women and violence calls for “the setting up of a Women’s Commission as a watch-dog agency with . . . powers and autonomy” (Krishnaraj 1991). Activists in Latin America call for specialized family courts and police stations (Brasiliero 1997). Feminists in Canada, Norway, and the United States have agitated for commissions on women, equal status offices, and other institutional changes aimed at improving conditions for women (Geller-Schwartz 1995; Bystydzienski 1992a; Stetson 1995).

    Does the structure of...

  7. 6 Social Movements, Political Institutions, and Public Policies on Violence Against Women
    (pp. 138-164)

    We have seen that a particular type of institutional structure, an effective women’s policy machinery, seems to improve government responsiveness to violence against women. However, an effective women’s policy machinery does not, on its own, guarantee that there will be any government response to violence against women. We also know that although women’s movements are the catalysts for government action in this area, they are sometimes unsuccessful in provoking government response. Thus, while both women’s movements and political institutional structures are important, neither phenomenon alone seems adequate to explain the wide variation across countries in government responsiveness to violence against...

  8. 7 Social Structures and Public Policy
    (pp. 165-193)

    I have argued that the impact of political institutions on policies to address violence against women observed in this study suggests some important revisions to both neoinstitutionalist and feminist conceptualizations of the policy process. In addition, it seems that comparative social welfare models also provide little explanatory leverage in this policy issue area (as we saw in chapters 2 and 5). But this analysis of policies on violence against women has even broader theoretical implications for the study of public policy. In the previous chapter, I demonstrated that effective women’s policy agenciesinteractwith independent social movements to improve government...

  9. 8 Responding to Violence Against Women : Practical Lessons for Democrats, Feminists, and Policymakers
    (pp. 194-210)

    Violence against women constitutes a violation of women’s human rights (U.S. Department of Labor 1996; Nelson 1996). It is a serious public policy problem in all stable democracies. Although virtually all stable democratic countries take some action to address violence against women, there are only two cross-national analyses of government response to the problem: one compares policies in the United States and Sweden (Elman 1996a), the other compares policies in the United States and India (Busch 1992). Policies to address violence against women thus constitute an important but understudied area.

    This study employs an original cross-national data set on government...

  10. Appendix A: Compilation of Studies and Reports of Violence Against Women in Stable Democracies
    (pp. 211-217)
  11. Appendix B: Notes on Method and Measurement
    (pp. 218-226)
  12. Appendix C: List of Sources by Country
    (pp. 227-234)