This paper examines the evolution of gender equality as manifested and protected by the state in both Rwanda and South Africa since 1994. As a liberal democracy, South Africa should, in theory, allow for the influence of citizens in policy making and be held accountable for its shortcomings regarding its commitment to gender equality and ending violence against women. Evidence reveals that the South African state falls far short of these ideals, particularly in its relationships with women’s organizations in civil society. Conversely, the Rwandan state, under authoritarian leadership, demonstrates significantly greater commitment to gender equality, and civil society groups report positive relationships with the state. Four factors explain this disparity: the context of each country’s political transition, the origins and ideology of the ruling party, the extent and type of state corruption and neopatrimonialism, and the role of civil society in a semi-authoritarian state versus a liberal democratic state.
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