ABSTRACT

Governance failures that affl ict women differently than men include the neglect of women’s needs by service providers, gender-biased rulings by justice personnel, corruption that takes the form of extortion of sexual favors, and patterns of public resource allocation that prioritize responses to men’s needs over women’s. Frequently these problems are traced to an inadequate demand from women for better services, for justice, for an end to impunity, or for a gender-equitable distribution of public funds. But as more women move into public decision making positions, and as women’s movements become more assertive, it is clear that there is no lack of demand from women for better governance. The persistent failures of states to respond to women’s needs, or to be held accountable for their actions from a women’s rights perspective, expose profound gender biases in the supply of good governance for women. In other words, women in public offi ce, passing new laws and designing policies to respond to women’s needs, come up against a serious obstacle to effective implementation of new measures: low-capacity states unable to challenge vested interests in women’s subordination. A gender perspective on governance shows that sometimes state institutions and personnel internalize and reproduce gender biases, so that far from enabling women to govern effectively, they actually “govern women,” in the sense of limiting their choices to the extent of reinforcing subordination. Accountability systems to detect and correct institutionalised patterns of gender bias are frequently weak, or else are not calibrated to condemn and prevent the neglect or exclusion of women. Are these gender-specifi c accountability and governance defi cits an accident or oversight? Or do they represent profoundly gender-biased governance systems that are part of the subordination or patriarchal governance of women?