When nations make the transition from internal violent conflict to the rule of law, a new constitution is often a key ingredient for addressing the causes of violence. Drafting a constitution is also an opportune time to rethink the rights of all a nation’s citizens—particularly those of women and girls. On April 12, the U.S. Institute of Peace and U.N. Women hosted an international panel of judges, lawmakers and legal experts who discussed practical approaches to writing post-conflict constitutions that enshrine gender equality.
Constitutions are the stabilizing bedrock of civic life in a democratic system and are critical to sustaining the rule of law. Yet since 1789, the average lifespan of a constitution has been 17 years—a figure that can reflect both a cause and an effect of political instability, especially for countries emerging from conflict. Constitutions are indispensable for the reform of gender discriminatory laws. A constitution that protects the rights of all stakeholders, including women and minority groups, is likely to support stability and prove more durable.
Since 2000, more than 30 nations have adopted new constitutions. While most have enlarged the sphere of gender rights, only seven established mechanisms to ensure that constitutional guarantees are fulfilled. This panel focused on how to translate constitutional provisions into practice in a variety of international settings. Continue the conversation on Twitter with #EquitableConstitutions.
Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Executive Director, U.N. Women
Ms. Robin Lerner, J.D.
Senior Adviser and Counselor in the Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State
Program Specialist, U.N. Women
Mr. Jason Gluck
Policy Specialist, Political Dialogues and Constitutional Processes, United Nations Development Program
Ms. Susan Deller Ross, J.D., Moderator
Professor of Law, Georgetown University