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Publication Citation

46 Federal Law Review 491 (2018)


Despite the enormous literature on federalism in constitutional design, and the growing attention to gender equality in constitutional design, there has been remarkably little attention paid to the interaction between the two. This article seeks to provide a summary of the existing literature on this intersection, to apply the insights of that literature to the case of Myanmar, and to offer a contribution concerning the theoretical connections between federalism and gender equality. The analysis generates four primary conclusions. First, federalism is inherently neither good nor bad for gender equality: it all depends on the details of the federal system and the context in which they are applied. Second, there are, nonetheless, some guidelines that can be gleaned from the experiences of countries around the world about the design elements that can make federalism more or less useful for promoting gender equality under different conditions. Third, applying these elements in the case of Myanmar suggests that women's organisations might make common cause with the ethnic minority groups that are negotiating with the government and the army over federalism issues because the women share with these groups certain goals with respect to federal systems. And fourth, there is a connection between gender and federalism, not at the pragmatic or design level, but at the theoretical level. This connection concerns the type of (ideal) orientation that is required of citizens in a federal system and the ways in which that orientation might be valuable for gender equality. It is, then, the character of federal citizens, rather than the federal system itself, that could be inherently beneficial to gender equality.