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Women's legal rights over 50 years : progress, stagnation or regression ?
 
Author:Hallward-Driemeier, Mary; Hasan, Tazeen; Rusu, Anca Bogdana; Collection Title:Policy Research working paper ; no. WPS 6616
Country:World; Date Stored:2013/09/23
Document Date:2013/09/01Document Type:Policy Research Working Paper
SubTopics:Access to Finance; Legal Products; Gender and Law; Population Policies; Gender and DevelopmentLanguage:English
Major Sector:Public Administration, Law, and Justice; Industry and tradeRel. Proj ID:1W-Research On Expanding Economic Opportunities -- -- P127907;
Region:The World RegionReport Number:WPS6616
Sub Sectors:General industry and trade sector; Law and justiceTF No/Name:TF014655-KCPII - Job Creation, Structural Change, and Economic Development in ME
Volume No:1 of 1  

Summary: Using a newly compiled database of women's property rights and legal capacity covering 100 countries over 50 years, this paper analyzes the triggers and barriers to reform. The database documents gender gaps in the ability to access and own assets, to sign legal documents in one's own name, and to have equality or non-discrimination as a guiding principle of the country's constitution. Progress in reducing these constraints has been dramatic -- half of the constraints documented in the 1960s had been removed by 2010. However, some sticky areas persist where laws have not changed or have even regressed. The paper analyzes potential drivers of reforms. A significant finding is that the relationship with a country's level of development and the extent of its reforms is not straightforward. For the first half of the sample, there was no systematic connection; only in the last 25 years have increases in income been associated with higher probabilities for reform, but only in lower-income countries. With the remaining constraints as prevalent in middle- as low-income countries, increased growth is not necessarily going to spark additional reforms. Clearer patterns emerge from the momentum created by international conventions, such as the Committee to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), women's political representation at the national level, mobilization of women's networks, and increasing labor force participation in sectors that provide a voice for women, which are positive forces for change. Conversely, conflict and weak rule of law can entrench a discriminatory status quo. And much is at stake; strengthening women's legal rights is associated with important development outcomes that can benefit society as a whole.

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