Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2012

11 - Women's Involvement in International Constitution-Making


In 1776, Abigail Adams pled with her husband to please “remember the ladies” as he left to participate in the U.S. Constitution's all-male drafting process. Centuries later, many women around the world remain uninvolved in their constitutions’ creation and revision, leaving their rights in men's hands.

More than half of current national constitutions were drafted or revised over the last several decades, so it is no surprise that there has been an accompanying explosion of scholarly inquiries into the drafting processes. These publications suggest that constitutions share core elements that transcend differences in cultures, geography, history, and other variables. Taken together, these studies offer a framework for the most successful constitutions in terms of both substance and process. Thus, scholars have been able to offer suggestions for future constitution-drafting processes. Often, however, like the constitution-drafting processes they describe, they omit any discussion of women's involvement. This chapter addresses the significance of that absence and begins to fill the void.

Many questions regarding women’s participation in the creation and revision of constitutions remain unanswered. Which countries have included women? How meaningful were those inclusions? Does the involvement of women substantively change the text of the final document? Is women’s involvement correlated with a constitution’s perceived legitimacy? Although the available resources are limited, the small group of scholars that have discussed women’s participation in individual countries make it possible to begin answering these questions.

Bannon, Alicia L.Designing a Constitution-Drafting Process: Lessons from Kenya 116 2007
Howard, A. E. DickThe Bridge at Jamestown: The Virginia Charter of 1606 and Constitutionalism in the Modern World 42 2007
Sripati, VijayashriConstitutionalism in India and South Africa: A Comparative Study from a Human Rights Perspective 16 2007
Howard, A. E. Dick 1993
Scheppele, Kim LaneAspirational and Aversive Constitutionalism: The Case for Studying Cross-Constitutional Influence Through Negative Models 1 2003
Ihonvbere, Julius O.How to Make an Undemocratic Constitution: The Nigerian Example 21 2000
Goldwin, Robert A.Kaufman, Art 1988
Taylor, HollyThe Constitutions of Afghanistan and Iraq: The Advancement of Women's Rights 13 2006
Grenfell, LauraThe Participation of Afghan Women in the Reconstruction Process 12 2004
Schoiswohl, MichaelLinking the International Legal Framework to Building the Formal Foundations of a “State at Risk”: Constitution-Making and International Law in Post-Conflict Afghanistan 39 2006
Commentary, Nusrat ChoudhuryConstrained Spaces for Islamic Feminism: Women's Rights and the 2004 Constitution of Afghanistan 19 2007
Arjomand, Saïd AmirConstitutional Developments in Afghanistan: A Comparative and Historical Perspective 53 2005
Morgan, Martha I.Alzate Buitrago, Monica MariaConstitution-Making in a Time of Cholera: Women and the 1991 Colombian Constitution 4 1992
Gathii, James ThuoPopular Authorship and Constitution Making: Comparing and Contrasting the DRC and Kenya 49 2008
Mutua, Athena D.Gender Equality and Women's Solidarity Across Religious, Ethnic, and Class Differences in the Kenyan Constitutional Review Process 13 2006
Morgan, Martha I.Founding Mothers: Women's Voices and Stories in the 1987 Nicaraguan Constitution 70 1990
Lobel, JulesThe Meaning of Democracy: Representative and Participatory Democracy in the New Nicaraguan Constitution 49 1988
Murray, ChristinaA Constitutional Beginning: Making South Africa's Final Constitution 23 2001
Banks, Angela M.Challenging Political Boundaries in Post-Conflict States 29 2007
Hoq, Laboni AmenaThe Women's Convention and Its Optional Protocol: Empowering Women to Claim Their Internationally Protected Rights 32 2001
Charlesworth, HilaryChinkin, ChristineWright, ShelleyFeminist Approaches to International Law 85 1991
Ludsin, HalliePutting the Cart Before the Horse: The Palestinian Constitutional Drafting Process 10 2005
Andrews, Penelope E.From Gender Apartheid to Non-Sexism: The Pursuit of Women's Rights in South Africa 26 2001
Wing, Adrien KatherineConstitutionalism, Legal Reform, and the Economic Development of Palestinian Women 15 2006
Hernádez-Truyol, Berta EsperanzaWomen's Rights as Human Rights – Rules, Realities and the Role of Culture: A Formula for Reform 21 1996
Sandusky, Stacy R.Women's Political Participation in Developing and Democratizing Countries: Focus on Zimbabwe 5 1999
Jaquette, Jane S.Women in Power: From Tokenism to Critical Mass 108 1997
Robson, Ruthann 2008
Mutua, MakauThe Iraq Paradox: Minority and Group Rights in a Viable Constitution 54 2006