Women’s Rights Around the World

women rights

In the late 1700s, people in Europe and North America began to speak about individual freedom, saying that everyone has rights that governments must respect. But they left out women, using phrases like “the rights of man.”

In response, some free-thinking women began to push for equality. One was Mary Wollstonecraft, a writer who campaigned for the right of women to vote and be educated. Her work was an important step toward women’s rights. Today, a century and a half later, most people in the world say it is very important for men and women to have equal rights. But women remain disadvantaged by social structures and traditions that often hold them back. They are more likely to live in poverty, and face discrimination in employment, education, housing, health care and other areas. In addition, many are subjected to violence and oppression because of their gender or sexual orientation.

Despite these challenges, there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of women’s rights around the globe. A median of 75% in the 34 countries surveyed think it is either likely or very likely that women will have equal rights with men in their country in the future. And 5% volunteer that this is already the case in their country.

Most Americans say it is very important for men and women in their country to have equal rights, with a solid majority of Democrats and Democratic leaners and Republicans and Republican leaners alike saying this. This is true even for those with less education, although those with a college degree are more likely to say this than those with no education.

When asked what a society that has achieved equality between men and women would look like, 45% of those who have this opinion name equal pay for equal work as one important element. Others cite no discrimination in hiring or promotion, and 2% say there are more opportunities for paid leave and paternity/maternity support for both men and women.

However, some nations are lagging behind in achieving these goals. In particular, a substantial share of people in Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey say it is unlikely that women will ever have equal rights with men in their country. Substantial shares in South Africa, Kenya and Israel also express pessimistic views about the state of gender equality in their nation.

The suffrage movement and other developments in the ensuing years led to the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which states that all nations have an obligation to protect women’s rights. The vast majority of countries have ratified this treaty, but there are still places in the world where women’s rights are not fully protected. This is why we must continue to fight for the rights of women everywhere. We cannot be a truly free and equal society until all people have these fundamental rights. Then we can begin to focus on the more specific challenges that each nation faces.