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Definitely not ‘Ladies First’


Which are the best and worst countries for women and how do we achieve sufficient social reform to guarantee a safer and more equal life?

July 24, 2012 2:19 by

While most of us would love to, during occasional periods of inner soul reflections, think of ourselves as standing, healthy and contributing members of society, wishing equal rights and opportunities for all races and genders, we may not be seeing that anytime soon. Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world and the unfortunate fact remains that while there is constant effort injected from certain governments and activists; there may not be enough social intervention to create that reality yet.

In many of the world’s nations, women continue to face challenging times in almost all slices of their lives including their careers, social life, education and well being. I may not indulge in any disturbing details as i write this to inform and not deform.

In a recent study released by TrustLaw, a legal news service run by Thomson Reuters; it revealed what some of the best countries are for women to live in and (unfortunately) the other side of that spectrum showed the worst countries for women to be in. This study was based on several factors that includes the right to an education and healthcare, social freedom and expression, career, discrimination or lack thereof and safety, among others.

When it came to active policies that work hard to ensure equal rights for women, safeguarding against violence and a right to healthcare, Canada topped the list of the global study; making it the best country for women to live in. The same poll showed that Infanticide, slavery, violence and child marriage are some of the reasons why India was the worst on that list; while Saudi Arabia fell next in line.

Germany, Britain, Australia and France rounded out the top five countries out of the Group of 20.

One may argue that Saudi Arabia and India fall on different ends of the spectrum; but the fact is that the study takes many factors into consideration. Consequently, if some negative factors are absent there would be others to downgrade the country’s rating. In the Kingdom, women are well educated but they only received rights to vote in 2011 and are banned from driving or leaving their premises without the consent/companionship of a male relative.

Indonesia, South Africa and Mexico also made the bottom of the list.

TrustLaw asked aid professionals, academics, health workers, policymakers, journalists and development specialists with expertise in gender issues to rank the 19 countries of the G20. The categories used to ranking included: quality of health, freedom from violence, participation in politics, work place opportunities, access to resources such as education and property rights and freedom from trafficking and slavery.

However, as a hint of proof that there is governmentally induced effort; a recent news report read that the government of Saudi Arabia has declared a warning against all discriminators that it is illegal not to recruit women based on pregnancy, marital status or any other personal factor. The kingdom’s Ministry of Labor has emphasized on the illegality of such unlawful procedures.

“Some private companies are stipulating conditions such as a woman shall be recruited only if she is single or not pregnant if married,” said ministry spokesman Hatab Al-Anazi. “[That] is against the regulations approved by the ministry. Demanding that a woman worker remain single is not only against employment law, but also Sharia,” Al-Anzi added.

It would be extremely unfair to stipulate that the government is taking no action to resolve matters, push women into employment opportunities and create a safer and more social society for them but once again, sadly, there isn’t enough social intervention. A Saudi Arabia based video that was uploaded to YouTube went viral, showing a woman in the mall being rudely told to leave by the Police forces of Vice and Virtue. She took her stand and retorted but in essence they were kicking her out of the shopping mall for wearing nail polish. (watch video here) This is one of many social incidents that affect women in Saudi and other countries all around the world.

Saudi Arabia has one of the largest disparities between male and female employment. There is a gap of 23 percent; despite government efforts to encourage and widen employment opportunities. So far, the government has enforced a law to employ only Saudi women in lingerie and cosmetic shops.

The sky is not the limit anymore, but how can we bring it back?

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