Policy Note 2007 | May 2007

State, Difference, and Diversity

Toward a Path of Expanded Democracy and Gender Equality

The centrality of the state in promoting gender equality is generally acknowledged, but a perplexing and complex issue confronts us: should the state treat men and women in identical ways, or should it legislate and enforce policies that are aware of gender differences? In other words, should the state be gender-blind or gender-sensitive? Gender, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, ideological, economic, political, and cultural dimensions represent diversity among citizens. This paper argues that if the goal of the state is to promote democratic participation for all, a distinction must be drawn between socioeconomic characteristics that signify difference and those that manifest inequalities. The former require a politics of acceptance and recognition and policies to match, leading to equal treatment for all despite differences, while the latter necessitate interventions that remedy or remove structural elements that result in inequalities. The authors suggest that such a framework is useful in that it lends itself to a better understanding of gender-based asymmetries.

Published By:
Rania Antonopoulos Francisco Cos-Montiel

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