In the past decades, clauses guaranteeing gender equality have become a common feature of national constitutions. During that time, de facto gender equality also noticeably improved globally. But it is not clear whether the two trends are related. We explore the relationship between constitutional gender equality clauses and de facto gender equality using three research methods: cross-country regressions exploring the relationship between constitutional gender protections and de facto gender equality, a natural experiment exploring the forced inclusion of gender equality provisions in Japan’s constitution, and a survey experiment conducted in Japan that tests the effect of information about legal commitments to gender equality on support for reforms. Across the three methods, we find no evidence that constitutional gender equality clauses improve de facto gender equality. However, we find some preliminary evidence that constitutional clauses guaranteeing maternity leave and protecting motherhood may be associated with improved gender equality.

Adam Chilton & Mila Versteeg, The Effect of Constitutional Gender Equality Clauses, 51 Journal of Legal Studies, 329–370 (2022).