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Women's human rights and changing state practices: A critical realist approach

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This article draws on core insights of critical realism to explain why the international diffusion of women's human rights norms has varied greatly from one state to another and why states in general have been slower to incorporate these norms domestically than other human rights norms. Its central argument is that the gender-biased corporate identity of many states represents the most significant barrier to diffusion. However, it also shows that particular norms have been incorporated into particular states at particular points in time as a consequence of articulated international and domestic pressure from a variety of actors. It begins by examining the limitations of existing explanations of international norms before developing an alternative critical realist argument to explain cross-national variation in the diffusion and efficacy of international norms of sexual non-discrimination. Through the cases of Germany and Japan, it demonstrates how the diffusion of these norms is conditioned and more often than not impeded by the dynamic interplay between various international and domestic structures and agents, discourse, and power. Finally, it briefly discusses the theoretical and practical implications of the argument.


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