Democratic backsliding and the backlash against women’s rights: Understanding the current challenges for feminist politics

Trends of de-democratization across Europe and the Americas have emerged along with opposition to gender equality and threats to previous gender equality policy achievements. Yet, de-democratization is rarely analysed through the lens of gender equality and, so far, efforts to systematically examine the implications for inclusive democracy and the representation of gender interests are fragmented. Backsliding on gender policies and on state commitments to gender equality, and new forms of feminist engagement with hostile governments and audiences, also raise new challenges to the literature on gender and politics.

In this paper, we propose a conceptual framework to discuss these two interrelated realms: backsliding on gender equality policies and the emerging political space for feminist responses to this backsliding. We illustrate our framework with empirical observations from three Central and Eastern European countries: Croatia, Hungary, and Poland. We aim to contribute to an understanding of the gendered aspects of de-democratization and the functioning of illiberal democracies.

This paper is part of the “UN Women discussion paper series”.

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