Women's Rights Worldwide in the 21st Century

Dread Pirate Jimbo and I were having a discussion about how far women’s rights have come since our grandmothers weren’t allowed to vote or own land in Canada, and we were wondering about which countries are the best and worst for women’s rights, and what the benchmarks for measuring women’s rights would be.

Some of the benchmarks we came up with are:

  • Wage disparity between men and women.

  • Reproductive decision-making capacity for women. As in, do women really get to choose about having both sex and children? How about genital mutilation for young girls?

  • Equal opportunities for education for girls and boys.

  • Attitudes towards women and things traditionally associated with women in the general population and culture.

  • Laws regarding ownership of land, corporations and inheritance the same for men and women.

Canadian women are still not earning equal pay for equal work (about $0.77 to a man’s dollar), but it is better than it was in my mother’s day. As for the other benchmarks, I think we’re doing alright. Canadian women own land, corporations, and can inherit anything the men can. Canadian women have easy access to birth control of all kinds, as well as abortions, and contribute more or less equally to making decisions about having sex and children. Canadian girls go to school just like the boys; there’s still some work to be done in the school system to keep things on an equal level for boys and girls.

We have had a female Prime Minister in Canada, but we probably won’t have another for quite awhile. The general popular attitude towards women is not bad. There’s still a lot of work to be done. Overall, I give Canada about a 7.5 out of ten for women’s rights.

We were hoping that Dopers around the world could contribute here and give us an idea of how they think their country is doing regarding the overall equality of women and men.

The US is roughly on the same grounds as Canada, with a widespread attitude of “of course men and women are supposed to be equal, and are” (i.e., almost everyone agrees with the goals of feminism while maintaining that they’ve already been accomplished and therefore that feminism is unnecessary and irrelevant).

Reproductive decision-making is under perpetual attack and, with Republicans in control of Congress and the Presidency, and many conservatives on the Supreme Court bench, it could take a turn for the worse. For now, rights are guaranteed but access is not so good if you don’t live in a cosmpolitan area.

Do you have a cite for the “equal pay for equal work” claim?

[Whoops. I guess Opera 7’s “wand” button clicked submit for me.]

Do you have a cite for the “equal pay for equal work” claim? My understanding has been that women generally earn less because they work in different fields or take more time off.


Cecil says “hooey”. That cite applies to America but the same statistics circulate throughout the western world, and they’re always wrong in the same way.

Trust Cecil.

“More or less equally”? I don’t know what you mean by that.

Women have superior reproductive rights in the form of post-conception choices. Whether that is right or wrong, morally, is neither here nor there.

Canada isn’t one of those countries where Affirmative Action is used to increase the number of women in higher education, pass government acts to encourage female students and so on when females are already the majority, is it?

Boys are more likely to be punished in school and there are far more female-only schools in the West than male-only.

If we are to include education in this list we should also include healthcare.

I don’t know anything about Canadian healthcare but in the UK “It has previously been estimated that eight times as much is spent on women’s health as men’s”.

Why does it matter who is Prime Minister? Canada is, I believe, a representative democracy meaning that the Prime Minister and other elected members of government can’t be judged on their sex. The majority of the population of Canada is female and women are more likely to vote, therefore the male Prime Minister represents women more than men.

The Canadian government has, for example, Status of Women Canada. No similar body for men.

On a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being male supremacy and 10 being equality I give Canada a 12. Maybe 13. We in Britain, who functionally reserve some Parliamentary seats solely for women, get at least 13. Afghanistan should get 2.

Your government thinks equality is “improving women’s economic autonomy and well-being, eliminating systemic violence against women and children, and advancing women’s human rights”.

I wouldn’t hold out too much hope for real equality.

I believe featherlou is thinking of the common law treatment of married women. It’s not quite the case that a woman couldn’t own land; just that at common law, if she married she lost control of it.

At common law, an unmarried woman (a “feme sole”) could own property in the same way as a man. She could buy, sell or inherit it, with the same rights as a man. (Why else all those Victorian novels about heiresses, after all? :stuck_out_tongue: )

As soon as she married, her property rights changed. Although she still owned the property, her husband at law had the exclusive power to exercise her rights of property. He could farm it, rent it, sell it - all without her consent. (That was one of the reasons for “marriage settlements” amongst the wealthy in England in the 18th and 19th centuries - if father of the bride was contributing land to the marriage, he wanted to be sure that the new husband couldn’t dissipate the estate, to the detriment of the bride and eventual children.)

The fundamental unfairness of this legal position was eventually recognised and the U.K. Parliament passed the “Married Women’s Property Act” towards the end of the 19th century, to give married women the same property rights as men. That Act didn’t apply directly to Canada, but it served as the model for similar legislation by the Canadian provinces. I can’t find a complete list of enactments at the provincial level, but according to this Justice Canada website, Ontario enacted its version in 1884, Manitoba in 1900, P.E.I. in 1903, Saskatchewan in 1907, Alberta in 1922. (The situation in Quebec was slightly different, since Quebec uses the Civil Code, rather than the common law, but the law similarly favoured the husband. Women in Quebec did not get full property rights until 1964.)

(from the Cecil Adams editorial linked to by Cavalier):

This is exactly what I was getting at with my original statement regarding wage disparity.

As for the rest of your statements, Cavalier, I’m not really interested in debating whether Canada treats men worse than the U.K. My motivation in starting this thread was to get a feeling from Dopers worldwide about how they felt women were treated in their countries, and I began by stating how I feel women are treated in my own. That said, I have asked the Mods to move this thread to IMHO where I think it more rightly belongs.

Mods, could you please move this thread to IMHO? I have realized that my motivation in starting this thread was to discuss this issue, not debate it. Thanks.

Moderator’s Note: A man works from sun to sun, but a moderator’s work is never done.

Off to IMHO.

Thanks so much, Mr. Moderator Sir. I debated over which forum to put it in in the first place, and apparently guessed wrong. I should know by now that if I don’t want to provide cites aplenty, it doesn’t go in GD.