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During Women's History Month, we celebrate how far women's rights have come in the U.S. and worldwide. Across decades and centuries, women have seen more rights in healthcare, the workplace, and even their own homes.
Women's rights globally have undoubtedly made huge strides toward equity, but progress is slow in many places. And in some countries, women's equality has regressed rather than progressed. António Guterres, UN secretary general, recently said that gender quality is “300 years away.” He may be right.
Along with legally having to abide by strict dress code, custody, and divorce requirements, women in Iran cannot currently apply for a passport or travel outside of the country without permission from their husbands. The legal age of the husband can be as young as 15, while for a bride - 13. However, exceptions are made with consent from fathers and a judge that put brides as young as 5-9 years old.
Similar laws are present for women in Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Afghanistan saw significant changes regarding women’s rights shortly following the regain of power by the Taliban. Women in Afghanistan are required to wear head coverings in public and are not permitted to ride public transit without a male relative. Most women journalists stopped working due to the restrictions. The few women who do work in fields such as medicine or education must adhere to laws preventing them from working with men.
The slow progress or regression of women’s equality is not unique to the middle east or developing countries. The United States has seen recent court decisions that put women’s liberty in jeopardy, like extremist nations.
In 2022, the United States Supreme Court overturned the landmark case Roe Vs. Wade. This meant that states could write their laws regarding abortion. The court case decriminalized abortion initially. However, since its overturn, several states have drafted laws with the intent to restrict abortion.
In Texas, it is currently unlawful to obtain an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. The law does not provide exceptions for cases where the female was a victim of rape or incest. Penalties for physicians who perform abortions after six weeks could face excessive fines or may face revocation of their license.
In cases where a child of rape is born, the rapist may be able to claim parental rights, including visitation or custody. In Minnesota, the state does not allow termination or limitation of parental rights of a rapist when a child is the product of the assault. In North Carolina and Tennessee, the termination or limitation of parental rights of a rapist is allowed to be considered, but only if the rapist in question receives a conviction for the rape. According to recent statistics, 28 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults in the United States result in a felony conviction.
According to a recent report by World Bank, 14 countries worldwide provide equal legal rights to women. The report analyzed eight indicators when comparing the legal right of women and men. The indicators included marriage constraints, work after parenthood, and pay regulations. Among the 14 countries with equal legal protections for women compared to men were Canada, Latvia, Greece, and the Netherlands. In addition, the World Bank noted that all 14 countries had high-income economies.
Though many regions have seen an infringement on women's rights, there are others that are moving toward equality and have reached it in certain areas. However, the next 300 years will prove if the world as a whole is moving toward or away from gender equity.
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