Women's Rights

April 3, 2012 • Volume 6, Issue 7
Is equality under threat in some Arab countries?
By Sarah Glazer

Introduction

Australian women demand equal pay for equal work (AFP/Getty Images/William West)
Australian women demand equal pay for equal work at a rally on June 10, 2010, in Melbourne. Although pay gaps between men and women have narrowed in some areas, women still consistently earn less than men, often when doing the same work. (AFP/Getty Images/William West)

The women's rights movement has made enormous strides globally in the last 15 years, with most countries signing treaties to end gender discrimination. But with conservative Muslim parties gaining power in some post-Arab Spring governments, feminists fear women's rights in the Middle East — already lagging by world standards — may be further threatened. Although women were at the forefront in last year's protests, female candidates have been scarce in recent elections. One solution being considered: electoral gender quotas, already used in about 100 countries. In developed nations, women comprise the majority of recent university graduates, but females receive smaller paychecks than their male counterparts and rarely reach top management positions. Some experts attribute this to women's tendency to work part-time or take time off for parenting. Nordic countries are encouraging fathers to share parenting duties, while some countries are boosting the number of female business leaders through mandatory gender quotas for corporate boards.

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