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Impact case study

Women and Politics in France

Unit(s) of assessment: Modern Languages and Linguistics

School: School of Arts and Humanities


Professor Gill Allwood's research looks at:

  • women's participation in mainstream and alternative forms of political activity
  • gender and policy, focusing on prostitution, violence and abortion policy
  • the political participation of refugee women.

The outcomes of Allwood's research into gender quotas were published in Women and politics in France. This book is widely used as a reference by government agencies and organisations engaged in debates, campaigns and decision-making around women in politics. Its analysis of the relation between gender and democracy and its critical engagement with the campaign to increase the number of women in elected institutions has had an impact on debates around gender parity, women's representation, quota campaigns, legislation, and other forms of public policy in France and in countries including Canada, Spain, and Italy.

Chapter five of Women and politics in France, which explains women's absence from politics, was translated into Ukrainian and included in the 2003 textbook, Osnovii demokrati (Fundamentals of democracy). The book was produced by the Building Democracy in Ukraine project to provide Ukraine with a comprehensive programme of professional and post-secondary education about democracy and human rights.

In 2009, the book was updated and is used in:

  • distance learning courses on democracy for public servants
  • courses on democracy and human rights, established as part of the compulsory curriculum in institutions that train internal security personnel for the Ministry of Internal affairs
  • a course on teaching civic education introduced in institutions training new secondary school teachers.

The post-secondary courses have annual enrolments of more than 40,000 students and through a new compulsory course it should reach 200,000 students by 2015.

Allwood's research on prostitution policy led to participation in the Study Group on Prostitution, which brought together practitioners, policy makers, NGO workers and academics in a series of seminars in 2005 and 2006 intended to inform policy. Participants came from Gloucestershire Police, the Suffolk Constabulary and charities The Poppy Project and Streetreach. Its results were published in a volume edited by Vanessa Munro and Marina Della Guista (2008) Demanding Sex?: Critical Reflections on the Regulation of Prostitution.

In 2007, Allwood was invited to contribute to a policy advisory seminar in Vienna on legislation to ensure human rights, as part of The Symposium on Women, Human Rights and Prostitution. The aim of the symposium was to ensure that women involved in prostitution were considered by policy makers, an aim which was demonstrably achieved by the report's citation in subsequent parliamentary debates.

Research background

Allwood's research set out to explore the relation between women and politics in France. It did this by investigating:

  • women's participation in mainstream and alternative forms of political activity
  • the relation between gender and policy, focusing on policy issues such as prostitution
  • the political participation of marginalised women, focusing on women refugees.

Women and politics in France 1958-2000 offered a detailed analysis of women's participation in mainstream institutional politics and alternative forms of political activism. It included chapters on electoral participation and voting behaviour, trade unions and political parties, ecological and feminist movements, and republicanism and citizenship.

Allwood's research on prostitution forms part of her book Gender and policy in France, which highlights the relation between prostitution policy and anti-migration and anti-migrant measures, demonstrating the particularly harsh impact of new measures on migrant women.

Refugee women In Britain and France begins with an expectation that the experience of political activism that these women brought with them from their countries of origin was likely to motivate them to participate in social and political life in their country of destination. Excluded from formal party politics, the women find ways to participate in civil society organisations, in particular refugee and migrant associations and humanitarian NGOs. As part of the research project, Allwood interviewed refugee women activists and participant observation in refugee women's groups.

The research was presented at a public conference at the Sorbonne in 2006, which brought together academics, practitioners and service users.


  • Women and politics in France is widely cited and positively reviewed in academic literature, including history, politics, European Studies, and French journals. It is cited extensively in Jocelyne Praud and Karl A. Henriques, Constitutionalizing and legislating parity democracy: The cases of France and Belgium, Public policy paper 56, May 2008, The Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy (SIPP), Canada. It is used as a source in Resources for France, 2013 the Global Database of Quotas for Women, which aims to provide knowledge to democracy builders, provide policy development and analysis and support democratic reform. It is also cited in a Finnish publication from the Ministry for Social Affairs and Health, Council for Gender Equality by Eeva Raevaara, Gender Equality and the Limits of Change.
  • Allwood's research is listed on the website of the French government's Haut Conseil à l'Egalité entre les femmes et les hommes (2013)
  • Allwood's research on prostitution has been positively reviewed in criminology, law, French and gender studies journals. The research has led to invitations to contribute to an ESRC and AHRB funded study group and to two edited volumes: Munro and Della Giusta (2008) and Westmoreland and Geetanjoli (2006).
  • It is one of four sources for the French country study in the European Parliament's Study on National Legislation on Prostitution, 2005, itself widely cited as a source for debates and decisions on prostitution and trafficking. This is evidenced by its publication on the European Commission's webpage Together Against Trafficking in Human Beings (10 September 2013).

Related staff


"This timely book offers for the first time in English an account of gender politics in France... It is a must-have for anyone interested in gender politics and political studies." Professor Joni Lovenduski, Birkbeck College, University of London.

"This very well-informed book sets its detailed case studies within a wider context and brings together empirical accounts with explanations of underlying ideas and approaches. Refreshingly clearly written, it will be invaluable for those interested in comparative politics and public policy as well as in women's studies." - Anne Stevens, Emeritus Professor of European Studies, Aston University.

"A welcome addition to the small but growing body of literature that sees migration from a gendered perspective… Rather than seeing refugee women as victims first and foremost, the authors conclude that women refugees make useful political, socio-cultural and economic contributions to their new countries. This is a message that policymakers throughout the world should heed." Professor Susan Martin, Donald G. Herzberg Chair in International Migration and Director, Institute for the Study of International Migration.