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In 2021, Only 10 Countries Have Achieved Gender Equality in the Eyes of the Law

Although the state of gender equality has vastly improved since 1921, there’s still clearly much left to be done.
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It’s 2021, and out of almost 200 countries, only 10 have achieved total legal protections for women. And that’s not even considering the social and cultural equal treatment of women. According to the World Bank, on average, women have just three-quarters of the legal rights afforded to men. Although the state of gender equality in 2021 is vastly improved from how women were viewed in 1921, there’s still clearly much left to be done.

According to the latest Women, Business and the Law Report by the World Bank, the 10 countries that offer full equal rights to men and women in the eyes of the law are: Belgium, France, Denmark, Latvia, Luxembourg, Sweden, Canada, Iceland, Portugal, and Ireland. All of these countries scored 100 in the World Bank’s gender equality “test.”

Infographic: Only Ten Countries Have Full Equal Rights for Women | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

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In its report, The World Bank noted that countries with better gender equality tend to also perform better economically as most OECD high-incoming countries were ranked higher in the report. This is based on the premise that economies fail when they hold back half of their population, and economic opportunity for women is and must be supported by legal freedoms. Of the 39 countries that scored higher than 90, 28 came from the OECD bloc.

The report measures and compares the laws that allow women to succeed at the same rate and level as men but asking basic questions on gender equality in the following legal areas: mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, assets, and pensions. Some of the questions are: “Can a woman travel outside her home in the same way as a man?” “Does the law mandate equal remuneration for work of equal value?” “Is paid leave of at least 14 weeks available to mothers?” “Do sons and daughters have equal rights to inherit assets from their parents?”

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How did the Philippines do?

The Philippines can be found in the middle of the pack with a score of 78.8. Far from the top, but still farther from the bottom. While gender equality in Philippine society is a topic of hot debate, in terms of the law, it performs much better than its neighbors Thailand, China, and Cambodia.

The Philippines had a perfect score in the workplace, pay, and entrepreneurship areas, proving that when it comes down to business and work, women are afforded equality in terms of the law. In terms of mobility and pension, the country missed one mark off each area. And it performed so-so in marriage, parenthood, and assets in terms of equal legal protections.

Still, the Philippines performed much better than the worst performing countries the World Bank gender equality report. The most notable ones are: Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Oman, Iran, Qatar, Sudan, Kuwait, and Yemen.

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Most of the most “gender equal” countries come from Europe, but Taiwan managed to break into the top 50 with a score of 91.3. It’s the highest ranking country from East Asia, followed by Hong Kong, Lao PDR, and South Korea. The lowest ranking countries from our region were Myanmar, Brunei, and Malaysia.

It’s important to note that the World Bank’s report only scratches the surface of the progress of gender equality around the world, and doesn’t yet include the state of LGBTQIA+ protections in the world. It also doesn’t take into account the lived experience of women in these countries, nor the cultural or religious norms that make it difficult for equal rights to move forward. But over 200 years since the first women gained the right of suffrage, it looks like we’re still taking our sweet time to catch up.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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