As we mark International Women’s Day this week, and its call for bold pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity, the role of law in fighting for the human rights and gender equality of women is paramount.
When governments use the law to discriminate against women in some way that disadvantages them in relation to men, they clearly violate the letter and spirit of Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which reinforces equal protection under the law.
Over the past 50 years, there has been tremendous progress in improving women's legal rights. Indeed, half of the gaps in women's legal rights to property and equal legal capacity were closed during the period 1960 to 2010 in 100 developed and developing countries, according to two new studies highlighted in the Women, Business and the Law 2014 report, launched on September 24. The challenge now is that some sticky areas persist where laws haven't changed or have even regressed. Tackling these remaining gaps is crucial given that strengthening women's legal rights goes hand in hand with better economic opportunities, health, and education — on top of being an inherent right — points made forcefully in the op.ed. by Sri Mulyani Idrawati, Managing Director of the World Bank.
Madame Ngetsi wanted to start a business in the Democratic Republic of Congo. What was her first step was in making her dreams a reality? Did she go to a bank for a loan, a notary to formalize her documentation, or the company registry to register her company? In fact, her first stop was to go to her husband to get legal permission to start her business. By law, Madame Ngetsi has to have written legal permission to register a business, formalize a document, open a bank account, and register land—a requirement that doesn’t apply to her husband.
While most of the attention to the gender impacts of violent conflict has focused on sexual and gender-based violence, a new and emerging literature is showing a more wider set of gender issues that document the human consequences of war better and help in designing effective post-conflict policies.
In a recent paper, ‘Violent Conflict and Gender Inequality: An Overview,’ Mayra Buvinic, Monica Das Gupta, Philip Verwimp, and I try to organize this evolving literature using a framework that identifies the differential impacts of violent conflict on males and females, known as first-round impacts, and the role of gender inequality in framing adaptive responses to conflict, known as second-round impacts.
In the policy discussions related to hunger, malnutrition, poverty and wellbeing, calorie intake is often the focus. Increasingly, however, micronutrient malnutrition appears to be a critical problem in many developing countries. Women and children are most vulnerable to micronutrient malnutrition due to their elevated micronutrient requirements for reproduction and growth. According to some estimates, nearly three billion people (including 56% of the pregnant and 44% of the nonpregnant women) suffer from iron deficiency anemia (IDA), and one-third of the world's population suffer from zinc deficiency. Twenty percent of the maternal deaths in Africa and Asia are due to IDA. One in every three preschool-aged children in the developing countries is malnourished. Undernutrition, coupled with infectious diseases, accounts for an estimated 3.5 million deaths annually. At levels of malnutrition found in South Asia, approximately 5% of GNP is lost each year due to debilitating effects of iron, vitamin A, and iodine deficiencies alone.
A commitment to gender equality in economic outcomes, as in other areas of social development and human rights, has emphasized women's empowerment. There is evidence that expanding woman's opportunities - particularly in the areas of health, education, earnings, civic rights, and political participation - decreases gender inequality and accelerates development. However, despite important advances towards equality, gender differences in many socioeconomic outcomes still persist. In light of this, policy makers and social scientists have shifted attention to the role of men in reducing gender disparities.
From the World Development Report 2012.
For poor women and for women in very poor places, sizable gender gaps remain. In education, where gaps have narrowed in most countries, girls’ enrollment in primary and secondary school has improved little in many Sub-Saharan countries and some parts of South Asia. School enrollments for girls in Mali are comparable to those in the United States in 1810, and the situation in Ethiopia and Pakistan is not much better.
The 2012 World Development Report, Gender Equality and Development, argues that gender equality “contributes to economic efficiency and the achievement of other key development outcomes.” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated at the APEC Women and the Economy Summit that “the increase in employment of women in developed countries during the past decade has added more to global growth than China has, ” and argued that incorporating women into the formal workforce is critical for economic progress. Understanding how major policy changes affect women’s employment and the gender wage gap is therefore critical for implementing future policies that may affect women’s status and opportunities.
How does Serbia fare on gender equality in the labor market? Did it manage to sustain some of the achievements of the former socialist regime, such as equal access to education opportunities, equal treatment of men and women in the labor law and high employment rates of men and women? The analysis of the recent labor force and enterprise surveys shows that although men and women have similar education levels and enjoy equal treatment in the labor legislation, there are major gender disparities in access to economic opportunities: