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Contexto Internacional

versão impressa ISSN 0102-8529versão On-line ISSN 1982-0240


CARVALHO PINTO, Vânia. Signalling for Status: UAE and Women’s Rights. Contexto int. [online]. 2019, vol.41, n.2, pp.345-363.  Epub 29-Jul-2019. ISSN 1982-0240.

That societies should be gender-equal is a prevailing normative ideal to which states at the very least pay lip service. The UAE as a highly globalised state that aspires to a superior status has not stood outside of these dynamics. Whereas in the decades since independence in 1971 women’s rights were emphasised as a sign of the country’s progress, nowadays, the UAE government portrays women’s rights as being advanced to such an extent that they are setting up a new gender empowerment benchmark for the Middle Eastern region. Additionally, the UAE has also proclaimed the goal of becoming one of the top 25 gender-equal states in the world by 2021. I suggest that these official proclamations are indicative of a signalling strategy whose aim is to advocate to an international audience that the UAE deserves a status higher than it currently holds. Based on Larson and Svechenko’s interpretation of social identity theory, I claim that the UAE’s strategy is one of social creativity. It rests on creating a new value – the Emirati standard of gender equality – within the Arab group. The former is operationalised through, on the one hand, ‘teaching to the test’ tactics in the area of women’s political participation, a field that can be easily regulated by the government. And on the other, on overemphasising the professional deeds of a small group of high-achieving women. In the latter case, as the numbers of females in employment are rather low, the government elects to call attention to women in specific and unconventional positions so as to lend greater credence to the existence of their own superior standard of gender equality within the Arab region.

Palavras-chave : United Arab Emirates; status-seeking strategies; gender equality; status signalling; women’s rights.

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