The recent move by Germany to consider adopting a women’s quota for German company boards should mainly be seen as a compromise brokered between the conservative party of Angela Merkel (CDU) and its coalition party the social democratic party (SPD). Angela Merkel has repeatedly obstructed moves towards a quota in the past and Merkel’s sudden support for a quota must be seen as a necessary concession to the Social Democrats on whose good-will she depends to form a new government. Thus, the recent change in attitudes towards quotas is a reflection of political strategies rather than a newfound commitment to gender equality within the Christian Democratic Union.
The World Economic Forum just published its annual 2013 Gender Gap Report highlighting the many ways in which gender equality is still an issue across the globe. A recent article in the Washington Post picks up on this theme and discusses several restrictions on legal rights for women globally. For example:
1. India (some parts): Road safety rules don’t apply to women. In some states of India, women are excepted from safety rules that mandate motorcycle passengers wear helmets — an exemption that kills or injures thousands each year. Women’s rights advocates have argued the exemption springs from a culture-wide devaluation of women’s lives. Supporters of the ban say they’re just trying to preserve women’s carefully styled hair and make-up — which isn’t exactly a feminist response.
2. Yemen: A woman is considered only half a witness. That’s the policy on legal testimony in Yemen, where a woman is not, to quote a 2005 Freedom House report, “recognized as a full person before the court.” In general, a single woman’s testimony isn’t taken seriously unless it’s backed by a man’s testimony or concerns a place or situation where a man would not be. And women can’t testify at all in cases of adultery, libel, theft or sodomy.
3. Saudi Arabia and Vatican City: Women can’t vote… still. This is amazingly the case in Saudi Arabia, though a royal decree, issued in 2011, will let women vote in Saudi elections in 2015. Vatican City is the only other country that allows men, but not women, to vote.