Women’s Rights – What Matters Most to Women in a Democracy?

women rights

The rights of women are not just a matter of fairness – they are also essential to a healthy society. Advancing gender equality is critical to all areas of a country’s life, from reducing poverty to promoting education, health, protection and economic opportunities for women and girls.

The women’s movement has been a remarkable force for change. It has brought about dramatic social and legal changes that many who have lived through them take for granted.

Many of the ideas and issues at the heart of the women’s rights movement were initially outlandish. Allowing women to go to college? That would shrink their reproductive organs! Employing women outside the home? That would break up families! Having them cast votes in national elections? That would destroy morals! These and other issues were once controversial and taboo. But today, most of these women’s rights are almost universally accepted and embraced by the public.

But despite these significant advancements, most Americans believe that more work needs to be done when it comes to giving women equal rights with men. More than half (57%) of adults say the country has not gone far enough in giving women equal rights with men, compared to 32% who think it has come about right and 10% who say that the country has gone too far in this regard. This view is held by Democrats and Democratic leaners, as well as Republicans and Republican leaners, but is less pronounced among those with no party affiliation.

In addition, when asked to name the most important milestone in giving women equal rights with men, a higher share of Democratic than Republican respondents point to the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) (72% vs. 57%) as the most significant accomplishment. Other milestones that have been cited by both Democratic and Republican leaners include the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (59% vs. 47%), the eradication of coverture (the practice of husbands requiring women to marry before they can receive financial support or property), and the introduction of no-fault divorce (49% vs. 51%).

More broadly, when asked what matters most to them in a democracy, American women cite good quality healthcare for themselves and their children as the top priority (26%), followed by good schools (12%). When it comes to gender equality, the vast majority of Americans across demographic and partisan groups believe that it is very important to have equal rights for women. But it remains to be seen whether political leaders can translate these lofty ideals into action. The next few years will be critical. We encourage readers to contact their elected officials and ask them to prioritize the advancement of women’s rights. This is an area where everyone can make a difference. If we all do our part, we can ensure that a more just and peaceful world is within reach. —Sarah Hogg, Research Director, Pew Research Center. Follow Sarah on Twitter.