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Women and Constitutions on 2018 International Women’s Day/Negotiated Text Network Launch Anniversary

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Today, March 8, 2018, marks the one-year anniversary of the Negotiated Text Network and is also International Women’s Day. Given the network’s emphasis on formal processes of negotiation, today provides an excellent opportunity to pay attention to those voices that have been heard or ignored within negotiations of constitutions throughout history.

As is evident in the model of negotiations underpinning the 1787 US Constitutional Convention, the United States Constitution was conceived and written by men. It was not until 1920 that the nineteenth amendment ensuring women’s suffrage was ratified in the United States and gave women an equal vote and chance to participate formally in the political process. However, women are growing more vocal and influential in processes of negotiations leading to constitutions in modern day.

A January 2018 report authored by Nanako Tamaru and Marie O’Reilly at Inclusive Security on women’s involvement in the constitution-drafting process in the wake of conflict shows that while women’s participation in the drafting of Constitutions from 1990 to 2015 is limited to 1 in 5, instances that did involve women were more likely to result in more gender equitable and inclusive constitutional provisions. Of the 75 countries who undertook constitution reform in the wake of armed conflict, unrest, or negotiated transition from authoritarianism to democracy between 1990 and 2015, 19% of the members participating in the formal constitution-reform bodies were women (Tamaru, O’Reilly, 5). And Tamaru and O’Reilly contend that women “consistently advanced constitutional provisions for more equitable, inclusive societies…” For example, the Colombian Constitution of 1991 includes Article 43, which states that “Women cannot be subjected to any type of discrimination. During their periods of pregnancy and following delivery, women will benefit from the special assistance and protection of the state…” (transcribed from Tamaru, O’Reilly, 25). Clearly, political processes continue to be affected by gender politics and women are still underrepresented in formal negotiations. Nevertheless, as Tamaru and O’Reilly’s research shows, women’s involvement in these events remains significant and stands to make critical contributions to emerging systems of government as they continue to be debated in modern day.

If you want to read more about this research and about strategies for increasing women’s involvement in the constitution creation process, you can find the report on Inclusive Security’s website here: https://www.inclusivesecurity.org/constitutions/

Alongside their research report, co-authors Tamaru and O’Reilly have also made publicly available their “Women’s Guide to Constitution Making,” the link to which can be found here: https://www.inclusivesecurity.org/constitutions/

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