The project explores the question of whether the backlash against gender equality that has manifested, with varying degrees of success, before different constitutional courts in Eastern Europe can be seen as a challenge to the rule of law in this region. The project also investigates how these courts, through their responses, have contributed to, or resisted, this challenge. The point of departure for this study is a controversial ruling of the Bulgarian Constitutional Court from 2018, which found the Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe to be unconstitutional due to, inter alia, espousing a hidden ‘gender ideology’. Similar contestations, leading to different outcomes, took place in other countries in the region, including Romania, Moldova, Latvia, Slovakia, and Czechia. These developments can be seen as part of an intensifying global trend of using constitutional instruments to push back against efforts to protect vulnerable groups against gender-based discrimination and violence. Adopting a comparative lens, the project explores the channels and actors through which these cases reach constitutional adjudication, the reasoning that constitutional judges apply when deciding them, and the rulings that they deliver. The broader question that motivates this research is: How does constitutional jurisprudence resist or succumb to anti-liberal discourses?
Contesting Gender before Eastern European Constitutional Courts
Fellow Talk by Ivo Gruev (Hertie School of Governance), chaired by Matteo Bonelli (Maastricht University)
Dr. Ivo Gruev is a comparative constitutional scholar and postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Fundamental Rights, Hertie School of Governance. His research combines doctrinal and law-in context approaches that draw on institutional design, legal culture, constitution-making history, and political developments to examine the constitutional protection of fundamental rights in European societies transitioning from, or back into, authoritarian rule. Ivo holds a doctorate (DPhil), a Master of Studies, and a Magister Juris from the University of Oxford, as well as a law degree (Erstes Staatsexamen) from the Humboldt-University in Berlin. Previously, he convened the Oxford Transitional Justice Research group, acted as Chairperson of Oxford Pro Bono Publico, and taught human rights law, jurisprudence, critical legal studies, and public international law at Oxford and Sciences Po. Being interested in the intersection between research and public policy, he has also worked for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the German Parliament, the International Criminal Court, and the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law. Through his re:constitution Fellowship, Ivo seeks to gain comparative insights into the erosion of liberal constitutionalism and the changing relationship between governments, courts, and vulnerable groups in both young and more consolidated democracies.