Women’s rights around the world is difficult to talk about in a single article, as the particular issues women face vary according to a country’s economy, government, culture, level of industrialization, and geographic region. But there are common issues that women face around the world and the equality of women’s rights compared with their male counterparts is one way to measure global well being.
No one can deny that reforming women’s rights has been a long process and will continue to take time. But here are a few examples of gains around the world in women’s rights:
- Women are gaining—or working towards gaining—voting rights in several Middle Eastern countries including Bhutan, Lebanon, Brunei, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
- In Africa, more women have gained parliament positions.
- The women’s rights treaty, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), has been almost universally ratified and has resulted in marriage and divorce reforms in Morroco, the outlaw of workplace sexual harassment in India, anti-violence laws for women in Mexico, and an increase in women’s participation in the United Nations.
Women’s struggle in non-industrialized nations may be shocking and surprising to women who have grown up with more or less equal rights. In many countries, women are socially excluded, being barred from owning land, are forced into sex trafficking and early marriage with no way out, and killed or mutilated for the sake of religion. And although many countries have ratified the CEDAW, which works to stop these types of mistreatment and abuse, the U.S. is among a handful of other countries including Iran, Qatar, Somalia, and Sudan that have not ratified.
Another shocking fact to learn about women’s rights around the world is that women cultivate and harvest more than half of the food we eat. If that surprises you it’s because women receive little if any recognition for this and are often unpaid for their labor. When they are paid for their labor, women earn as low as 30% of men’s earnings. In addition, women often work unskilled jobs with little or no social benefits. This not only puts women in a financially insecure position, but often puts their children at risk for poverty, health complications, and lack of access to an education.
Finally, it’s important to realize that women face discrimination throughout their entire lives. In many countries there is a strong economic and cultural preference for sons and many women will engage in foeticide if they realize they’re having a daughter. In childhood, girls suffer greater educational disadvantages than boys. They are victims of adolescent rape, genital mutilation, and sex trafficking, subjecting them to physical and emotional damage, HIV, and death. In their adult lives, women without rights are more likely to die in childbirth and live in poverty.