Laws Still Restrict Women’s Economic Opportunities Despite Progress, Study Finds

WASHINGTON: Countries are inching toward greater gender equality, but women around the world continue to face laws and regulations that restrict their economic opportunity, with the COVID-19 pandemic creating new challenges to their health, safety, and economic security, a new World Bank report says.

Reforms to remove obstacles to women’s economic inclusion have been slow in many regions and uneven within them, according to Women, Business and the Law 2021.

On average, women have just three-quarters of the legal rights afforded to men. Women were already at a disadvantage before the pandemic, and government initiatives to buffer some of its effects, while innovative, have been limited in many countries, the report says.

“Women need to be fully included in economies in order to achieve better development outcomes,” said David Malpass, World Bank Group President. “Despite progress in many countries, there have been troubling reversals in a few, including restricting women’s travel without the permission of a male guardian”.

He further noted that this pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities that disadvantage girls and women, including barriers to attend school and maintain jobs. Women are also facing a rise in domestic violence and health and safety challenges.

“Women should have the same access to finance and the same rights to inheritance as men and must be at the center of our efforts toward an inclusive and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic”, Malpass added.

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