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Gender, civil society and institutions

Open Panel

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to examine three concepts: gender equality, civil society and state, in order to understand what kind of relationship, if any, there is between them, and to observe how the feminist agenda might gain from such a relationship between these concepts. In the revision of feminist history, the link between civil society, citizenship and state appears as the logical development in the struggle for feminist demands. Late 19th century and early 20th century feminist groups are a good example of how women have been very successful in forming associational groups as part of civil society and have claimed the rights that states have finally incorporated through equality policies and laws. Current democratic states have achieved a high level of legal equality, mainly through the mechanism of citizenship, but this mechanism does not seem empowered to undo other constraints that women suffer, especially cultural, social and economic constraints. In searching these inequalities we may find that the civil society arena is much tougher than that represented by a democratic state. At the same time what it is called "institutional feminism" seems to show signs of fatigue and exhaustion. Is there any alternative to these two tracks? Is there a more profitable way of relating gender equality agenda to civil society and state?