Res Publica - Journal of Undergraduate Research


As early as 1871, Elizabeth Cady Stanton recognized that suffrage alone would not guarantee women’s emancipation. Rather, she noted that in order for a woman to be a truly equal and independent citizen, she must possess the ability to control her own circumstances. "The pride of every man is that he is free to carve out his own destiny. A woman has no such pride" (DuBois, 1981:140). Through this recognition she acclaimed that women must have the ability to control their own lives, namely the ability to choose and control the uses of their bodies. Yet, in the present world, there exists a dramatic variation from state to state regarding women’s control over their bodies in reproductive and marital issues. Why is it that in countries such as Canada and the United States, women are able to prosecute their husbands for rape, yet in countries such as Sudan, females are genitally mutilated with no recourse; in Brazil, violence against women is difficult to prosecute; and in India many woman have no choice concerning their marriage partner? What accounts for this variation? Is the source of this variation rooted in the political participation of women or does the variation stem from socio-economic modernization? Is bodily control determined by the ideological affiliations of parties within the state? This paper seeks to answer these questions using cross-national data drawn from twenty countries.