The Role of Governments in Advancement of Women Rights
When people think about women rights, they often think about issues like sexism and gender-based violence. However, a full range of women’s rights is also about access to economic and social opportunity and equal legal protections. These opportunities include the right to education, a secure job, the ability to own and inherit property, and the freedom to live without fear of sexual or physical violence, forced marriage or harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation. The fight for women’s rights is ongoing. But progress has been made.
For example, the women’s movement helped get a woman elected to the United States Senate for the first time in 1893, and dozens of other countries soon followed suit, giving women a voice in public affairs. Several waves of feminism shaped the political discourse and led to policies that give women more autonomy over their lives, such as the right to choose when to marry and have children, and to own and control their own property.
But these advances still fall short of what many women want, and a majority of Americans say that there is more work to be done to give women equal rights with men. In addition to sexism and gender-based bias, they also cite women being paid less than men for the same jobs, not having enough women in government or corporate leadership positions, sexual harassment, and different societal expectations as reasons why more needs to be done.
Governments can play a key role in the advancement of women’s rights. They can remove legal barriers to women’s employment, establish family planning programs and affordable health care services, make sure all schools are gender-neutral, and create safe spaces where victims of violence can receive support. They can also adopt laws that protect women’s autonomy over their bodies and ensure women’s equal participation in the workforce and civic life.
In fact, when countries have more women in parliament or local governments, they tend to be better at promoting policies that benefit women. And when governments sign the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, they are legally required to make women’s rights a reality. Unfortunately, some governments are moving in the opposite direction. In fact, the US is currently one of only a handful of countries that have not ratified the treaty. That’s why it’s so important for all of us to stand up for women’s rights today.