Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Symposium | Feminist Constitutionalism: Part I – The Rise of Feminist Constitutionalism: Shaping the Future Through the Lens of Equality

This is the inaugural essay in a special eight-part series on Feminist Constitutionalism, organized by Melina Girardi Fachin, as part of the project ‘Transforming Judicial Outcomes for Women in Canada and Brazil,’ which is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). For more information about Feminist Constitutionalism, please contact Melina Girardi Fachin via email at

Melina Girardi Fachin,  Professor of Constitutional Law, Federal University of Paraná, UFPR

Estefânia Maria de Queiroz Barboza, Professor of Constitutional Law, Federal University of Paraná, Uninter and PhD on Gender Studies of Palermo University.

The United Nations Secretary-General has issued a stark warning regarding the troubling state of women’s rights globally, indicating that it will take an additional 300 years to achieve gender equality worldwide. This revelation is both alarming and outrageous. Decades of progress in the fight for equal rights and freedom for women are facing setbacks due to the rise of authoritarianism around the globe. The advancement of neoconservatism and authoritarianism is closely linked with discourses that purportedly aim to protect the family at the expense of women’s equality and freedom. These ideologies are also aligned with anti-abortion movements. Wars further exacerbate the vulnerability of women and girls, as they are disproportionately subjected to physical and sexual violence during conflicts, in their flight from danger, and in refugee camps.

Amidst this backdrop, the advent of feminist constitutionalism offers a beacon of hope, symbolizing a steadfast commitment to achieving gender equality and dismantling the deeply entrenched patriarchal frameworks that have long governed societies. This innovative movement challenges the conventional legal status quo, seeking to infuse constitutional law with feminist ideologies to fundamentally transform societal structures towards greater equality, justice, and inclusivity.

At its core, feminist constitutionalism advocates for the reinterpretation and redesign of constitutional laws to ensure they inherently protect and promote gender equality. It calls for a critical examination of existing legal systems, highlighting the gender biases embedded within and advocating for transformative change. This movement has gained momentum as scholars, activists, and legal practitioners recognize the pivotal role of constitutions in shaping societal norms and values. By embedding feminist ideals into the constitutional fabric, nations pave the way for a more equitable society, where laws transcend mere rhetoric and actively dismantle gender-based disparities.

The global narrative of feminist constitutionalism is rich and diverse, encompassing a variety of approaches tailored to the unique socio-political contexts of different countries. From the incorporation of gender quotas in political representation to the enactment of laws that combat gender-based violence and discrimination, the impact of feminist constitutionalism is palpable. In some countries, this has led to the revision of archaic laws that perpetuated gender inequality, while in others, it has resulted in the introduction of groundbreaking legislation that protects the rights of women and marginalized genders. Other countries, such as Brazil and Mexico, have issued normative and binding protocols for their judicial systems to judge from a gender perspective. This means they aim to ensure that the judicial process does not replicate gender stereotypes and provides a manual for not perpetuating differences, thus creating a space to break away from cultures of discrimination and prejudice.

Despite its transformative potential, feminist constitutionalism is not without its challenges. The path to integrating feminist principles into the constitutional realm is fraught with resistance. Critics argue that such a focus may undermine the universality of human rights by prioritizing gender over other forms of inequality. Furthermore, the effectiveness of feminist constitutionalism is often contingent upon the political will and societal readiness to embrace gender equality as a fundamental value.

The rise of feminist constitutionalism has been significantly bolstered by the active participation of civil society and the support of the international community. Non-governmental organizations, women’s rights movements, and international bodies play a crucial role in advocating for the incorporation of feminist perspectives into constitutional law. Their efforts not only raise awareness but also provide the necessary pressure on governments to adopt and implement feminist legal reforms.

As we look to the future, the continued growth and evolution of feminist constitutionalism will be crucial in shaping societies that truly value gender equality. This requires a sustained commitment to challenging and redefining legal and constitutional norms, fostering inclusive dialogues, and ensuring that the voices of all genders are heard and respected not only in the constitutional making and amendment processes but also in constitutional interpretation. This interpretation must recognize the disproportionate impact that supposedly neutral norms have on women’s rights. The journey towards a more equitable world is ongoing, and feminist constitutionalism remains a powerful tool in this transformative quest. It is crucial to acknowledge that constitutional interpretation is inherently non-neutral, as are the interpretations rendered by courts and the analyses conducted by legal scholars. Feminist constitutionalism seeks to underscore the fact that constitutional law and constitutions have historically not been neutral, instead preserving male privileges and reinforcing structural gender inequalities.

The rise of feminist constitutionalism represents a fundamental transformation in the conceptualization and application of legal frameworks. By centering gender equality and challenging entrenched patriarchal norms, this movement not only reimagines the Constitution as a living document but also as a beacon of hope for a more just and equitable world. As we continue to navigate the complexities of this legal paradigm, the collective efforts of global communities will be instrumental in realizing the full potential of feminist constitutionalism.

Some of these collective endeavors are notably illustrated in the publication Feminist Constitutionalism, by Beverley Baines, Daphne Barak-Erez, and Tsvi Kahana. This work aligns with the efforts of the Women’s Court of Canada and has embarked on reinterpreting Supreme Court decisions from a feminist viewpoint. Similar initiatives to revise judicial decisions through feminist lenses are undertaken in Feminist Judgments projects across various nations, like the USA, Brazil, Australia, India, African countries, and England. These projects, which incorporate gender perspectives into legal analysis, are positively influencing the highest courts in countries like Mexico and Brazil, which have adopted protocols for issuing judgments that consider gender perspectives. Equally, in Italy, there is a growing emphasis on gender-focused academic pursuits, as evidenced by Ph.D. programs at institutions like the University of Palermo.

While these initiatives alone may not suffice to ensure gender equality or the equality of women fully, they underscore the importance of collective contributions towards the realization of human rights and women’s rights specifically. These efforts reflect a broader movement towards integrating feminist perspectives into legal education and practice, signaling a transformative approach to understanding and applying the law in a manner that promotes inclusivity and equity.

Suggested Citation: Melina Girardi Fachin & Estefânia Maria de Queiroz Barboza, Symposium | Feminist Constitutionalism: Part I – The Rise of Feminist Constitutionalism: Shaping the Future Through the Lens of Equality, Int’l J. Const. L. Blog, Mar. 7, 2024, at:–feminist-constitutionalism-part-i–the-rise-of-feminist-constitutionalism-shaping-the-future-through-the-lens-of-equality


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *