What determines countries’ successful transition to democracy? This article explores the impact of granting civil rights in authoritarian regimes and especially the gendered aspect of this process. It argues that both men's and women's liberal rights are essential conditions for democratisation to take place: providing both women and men rights reduces an inequality that affects half of the population, thus increasing the costs of repression and enabling the formation of women's organising – historically important to spark protests in initial phases of democratisation. This argument is tested empirically using data that cover 173 countries over the years 1900–2012 and contain more nuanced measures than commonly used. Through novel sequence analysis methods, the results suggest that in order to gain electoral democracy a country first needs to furnish civil liberties to both women and men.
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