Women’s Rights Around the World

women rights

Women’s rights have come a long way since the first Women’s Day rallies, but in most countries, there is still much work to do. This is especially true in high-income nations, where women continue to earn less than men for the same work, face sexual harassment and violence, and are underrepresented in politics and other leadership roles. In addition, in many countries, there are still laws and policies that prevent women from exercising their reproductive rights.

Despite these challenges, a majority of people in the world believe it is likely that women and men will one day have equal rights in their country. This view is highest in the Netherlands, where 90% say it is likely that women will have equal rights with men; it is also fairly high in Mexico, India, and in the U.S. In contrast, about half of people in countries where women’s rights have been restricted or undermined volunteer that it is unlikely that they will ever achieve equal rights with men.

These views are rooted in a deep understanding that equality is more than just a moral imperative; it’s an economic necessity. When women participate fully in society, business and politics, economies grow, and poverty is reduced. The women’s movement is working hard to make these truths more widely understood and to build an international community that recognizes and supports the work of women’s organizations.

For example, the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project fights to ensure that all people have the right to choose their own bodies, including the ability to have or not have children. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, the Women’s Rights Project seeks to transform the legal institutions that perpetuate discrimination against women, and the larger cultural and social structures that promote them.

Across the world, there are now more than 143 countries that guarantee equal rights for women and men in their constitutions. However, in the workplace and in political life, stark gender disparities remain: on average, women earn 20% less than men, and just 26% of all national parliamentarians are women. Harmful patriarchal traditions, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation, continue to deny girls a bright future and put them at increased risk of maternal death and disability.

When asked what they would expect to see in a society where gender equality is the norm, nearly all respondents name some form of equality in the workplace: 45% mention equal pay, 19% say no discrimination in hiring and promotion, and 2% mention better paid leave and paternity and maternity support. These are the kinds of measures that will make it possible to eliminate gender inequality and create a more fair and equitable society.

We need to raise awareness of these issues and encourage people, particularly in the wealthiest countries, to commit to investing in gender equality. There is no aspect of human society that does not benefit from empowering women and eliminating gender inequality. The world’s leaders and funders must stand up for gender justice, and we must take action against those who are holding back the movement for equality.