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Violence Against Women Subject of Recent Article by UNM Political Science Professor

UNM Associate Professor of Political Science Mala Htun has co-authored a recent article on "Feminist Mobilization and Progressive Policy Change on Violence Against Women," alongside Cheryl O'Brien and S. Laurel Weldon. The article appeared in the Volume 14, No. 1 issue of Foreign Affairs Latinoamérica. Htun is a faculty affiliate of the Latin American & Iberian Institute.

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Htun is the author of Sex and the State: Abortion, Divorce, and the Family under Latin American Dictatorships and Democracies (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and her work has appeared in American Political Science Review, Perspectives on Politics, Latin American Research Review, and Politics and Gender, among other journals and edited volumes. A former fellow of the Kellogg Institute of the University of Notre Dame, the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard, and the Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship in Japan, she has been supported by grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council, and National Security Education Program. She has served as a consultant to the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and the Inter-American Dialogue. She holds a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard and a A.B. in international relations from Stanford and was Assistant and then Associate Professor at the New School for Social Research from 2000-2011.

Htun's scholarly work explores the question of when and why states grant liberal rights and otherwise promote the interests of historically oppressed groups such as women and ethnic and racial minorities. She is currently finishing her second book (Politics of Inclusion: Gender Quotas and Ethnic Reservations in Latin America, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming) and working on her third. A collaboration with Laurel Weldon, this NSF-funded project explores women's rights and gender equality policies through comparative analysis of 70 countries. Pieces of the project have appeared in Perspectives on Politics, Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, as a background paper for the World Bank's World Development Report 2012, and will be published in American Political Science Review.

In this recent article, Htun and her co-authors consider the following: "Stopping VAW [violence against women] requires social transformation. New policy is only one part of a complex process involving changing attitudes, identities, administrative agencies, social practices and other elements of social norms. Adopting policies does not always mean they are implemented. Laws may not be enforced, money may not be spent, administrative agents may not act, and so on. Latin American governments, like governments worldwide, from Canada and the United State to India, have been criticized for failing to take action against perpetrators and tolerating abuse. These problems may be greater in national contexts where corruption and weak institutions undermine government legitimacy and capacity. This article focuses on one aspect of implementation gaps: the problem of impunity that results from failures of the criminal justice system. We suggest that feminist movements can help to ameliorate the impunity problem by encouraging and monitoring the enforcement of the laws and the behavior of state agents. In this way, they help to see that women's human rights to be free from violence exist in practice as well as on paper."

Foreign Affairs Latinoamérica (formerly Foreign Affairs en Español) was first launched in December 2000 as a joint project between the Council on Foreign Relations and the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). It offers an open space to discuss current international issues, focusing on their impact in Latin America, and seeks to reflect both the Latin American perspective of the world and how the region is perceived by other international actors. Foreign Affairs Latinoamérica includes an equal combination of Spanish translations of new Foreign Affairs articles and original articles commissioned exclusively for the Spanish-speaking market. The publication has a circulation of 8,000 copies and is recognized as an influential new international forum throughout Latin America and Spain.

To read this article as well as other publications by Htun, visit the Department of Political Science website.

Image: Illustration adapted from the Amnistía Internacional campaign for "No más violencia contra las mujeres" from 2013.

--Posted Friday, April 4, 2014.