Women, Power and Property: The Paradox of Gender Equality Laws in India

Quotas for women in government have swept the globe. Yet, little is known about their capacity to upend entrenched social, political and economic hierarchies.

The new book, Women, Power and Property: The Paradox of Gender Equality Laws in India, by Human Capital Initiative Core Faculty Member Rachel Brulé explores this question within the context of India, the world’s largest democracy. In the book, Brulé employs a research design that maximizes causal inference alongside extensive field research to explain the relationship between political representation, backlash and economic empowerment.

Her findings show that women in government – the gatekeepers – catalyze access to fundamental economic rights to property. Women in politics have the power to support constituent rights at critical junctures, such as marriage negotiations, when they can strike integrative solutions to intra-household bargaining. However, she finds a central paradox: quotas are essential for enforcement of rights, but they generate backlash against women who gain rights without bargaining leverage. Brulé then shows how well-designed quotas can operate as a crucial tool to foster equality and benefit the women they are meant to empower.

Published by Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Studies in Gender and Politics Series, Brulé’s book won the American Political Science Association’s 2021 Luebbert Award for the Best Book in Comparative Politics published in 2019-2020. 

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