Essential Freedoms

Do "democratic institutions" include things like a civic commitment to equal treatment of the sexes, protections for minorities against dictatorship by the majority, and a safe civil society for dissent? It seems to me that these freedoms may be more essential than mere Democracy - and may be preconditions for a successful liberal democracy. Women in Iraq and Afghanistan have the vote (in theory), but in many areas can't walk the streets with bare faces without fear of violent reprisal; freedom to vote doesn't guarantee freedom in any substantive sense. Democracy is one element of freedom, but it's not the only element, and maybe not even the most essential element. ...

Go read the rest of this excellent post on Women's Rights in the Middle East. Alas gets it exactly right.

See also Big Pharaoh:
A country that doesn't adopt the values of liberal democracy can never be called democratic even if it held 365 elections in a year.