Legal Rights for Women



The right to vote is one of the first legal rights granted to women. Legal change has been the focus of some of the most visible feminist initiatives. 


The right to vote and hold public office, the right to speak in public, the right to contract, the right to own property, and the right to personal protection are among the most well-known. 

Other legislation and legal reforms, on the other hand, are required to enable women's freedom. Laws that change society's expectations of a woman as a wife and mother are among the goals for feminist legal reform. 

Women needed to be protected, and laws governing the family had to be changed to allow them to own property and inherit riches, among other things. 

Some of these laws were suggested in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe and the United States, but it would not be until the twentieth century that women were really regarded legal individuals worthy of governmental protection against violence and the ability to possess and transfer property. 


Other legislative adjustments would be required to allow women to engage equally in political and economic life as men. 


For example, allowing women to seek and obtain divorce signals equal recognition of women in marital relationships; changing workplace laws to allow for maternity leave demonstrates at least some recognition that childbirth is a difficult process, but it also indicates a social recognition that women should not be penalized for giving birth (wh). 

The ability to vote, probably more than any other legislative change, has had the greatest impact on how women are seen and treated socially and politically. 


Women may more easily raise their issues to public and policy conversations and progress the liberation of women and other oppressed groups if they have the right to vote. 


However, women's ability to vote is greeted with a lot of criticism all across the world. Some believe that their husbands' votes already contain their wives' thoughts or ideas. It's pointless to provide women the right to vote. 

Furthermore, allowing women to vote implies that they may have differences with their spouses. 


Some anti-suffragists say that the family's very fabric is at jeopardy. 


In 1919, Pope Benedict XV endorsed allowing women the right to vote because he believed women would be a great religious conservative influence in public life. However, rather than being feminist, his motivation was political (he wanted to win back the balance of power in Italy). 

Another argument against allowing women to vote is that it would taint the image of womanhood. Voting is a filthy business, and when women – especially middle-class women – are held up as moral role models, it can only be perceived as a terrible thing. 


It appears that feminine appeal necessitates women staying at home and caring for household matters rather than being involved in politics. 


And, of course, drawing on the difficulties raised, if women are not viewed as completely human or do not have an education comparable to men's, they will not be eligible to vote. 

The women's suffrage movement in the United States came out of and alongside the abolitionist movement in the nineteenth century. Women made various reasons for why females should be allowed to vote, including that females have a right to participate in economic and political life on an equal footing with males, and that voting is the only state-recognized means to do so. 

Feminists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, for example, utilized the Declaration of Independence to bolster the cause of women's suffrage. 


God endows all persons with intrinsic rights, according to Stanton, one of which is the ability to vote.


 However, the suffrage movement is not without flaws. 

Stanton has been chastised for opposing the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted the right to vote to blacks and freed slaves. This critique is valid, yet it only tells half of the tale. Stanton was enraged because the Fifteenth Amendment looked to legitimize women's subjugation, which many in the suffrage movement considered was discriminatory and dishonest to the abolitionist cause. 

She was more concerned with ensuring that women were included in the groups allowed the right to vote in the republic through suffrage than with denying blacks the right to vote. Many suffragists attempted to combine the cause of women with abolition by opposing policies that exclusively provided rights to a subset of the population. 

At least some white women equated their domestic work to slave labor in the sense that it was uncompensated labor when advocating for legal equality. Women were frequently thought to be part of the property of the male householder, but comparing their condition to that of slaves ignores slavery's sometimes brutal nature. 


The condition of the slave was fundamentally different from that of white, middle-class suffrage movement feminists. 


Slaves were frequently torn from their families, forced to have children against their choice, raped and abused by slave owners, and treated as chattel or property by their masters. 

Despite the fact that women in the United States gained the right to vote in 1920, and women in the United Kingdom gained some partial rights in 1918 and rights on par with males in 1928, there are still women fighting for their right to vote all over the world. 

The right to vote was recognized as a human right by the United Nations in 1948, but women were not always included in the interpretation or understanding of that universal human right. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, signed in 1979, was the first formal recognition of women's right to vote (CEDAW). 


However, there is no international body to enforce human rights within countries. 


Women's suffrage is still prohibited in certain nations, and global feminists understand that the right to vote should never be taken for granted — women have been physically blocked from voting in too many locations and at too many times, and their right to vote has been legally rejected.


~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read more about Feminism and Activism here.



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