Abstract: Trends of de-democratization across Europe and the Americas are emerging, along with opposition to gender equality and threats to previous gender equality policy gains. Yet de-democratization has been barely analysed through the lens of gender equality, and so far, efforts to systematically analyse the implications for inclusive democracy and the representation of gender interests are lacking. Backsliding in gender policies, and new forms of feminist engagement with hostile states and publics, also raise new challenges to the literature on gender and politics. In this article we explore gender equality policy backsliding in fragile democracies. Backsliding and de-democratization processes in these contexts pose a series of important challenges to how we have thought about gender policy change in progressive, mainly Western democratic contexts until now. We propose a conceptual framework discussing these two conceptually interesting realms: backsliding in gender equality policies, and feminist responses to backsliding. We illustrate our framework with empirical observations from four backsliding or temporarily backsliding Central and Eastern European countries: Croatia, Hungary, Poland and Romania. With our article we aim to contribute to the understanding of gendered aspects of de-democratization both in gender and politics literature and in mainstream democratization literature.
Keywords: backsliding; Central and Eastern Europe; democracy; feminism; fragile democracy; gender; resilience; women’s movements