Discrimination against women

Visualization of narrower problems
Denial of right to equality for women
Active prejudice towards women

Discrimination against women on the basis of their sex occurs in religion, politics, education, employment, public life, social services, family and marital status, and before the law.


The causes of the inequality between women and men are directly linked with a complex historical process. The inequality also derives from political, economic, social and cultural factors. The form in which this inequality manifests itself is a varied as the economic, social and cultural conditions of the world community. Throughout history and in many societies women have been sharing similar experiences. One of the basic factors causing the unequal share of women in development relates to the division of labour between the sexes. This division of labour has been justified on the basis of the childbearing function of women, which is inherent in womanhood. Consequently, the distribution of tasks and responsibilities of women and men in society has mainly restricted women to the domestic sphere and has unduly burdened them. As a result, women have often been regarded and treated as men's inferior, and unequal in their activities outside the domestic sphere and have suffered violations of their human rights. They have been given only limited access to resources and to participation in every sphere of life, notably in decision-making; and in many instances institutionalized inequality in the status of women and men has also resulted.


Women and girls are half of the world's population, do two-thirds of the world's work hours, receive a tenth of the world's income and own less than a hundredth of the world's property.

[Developing countries] In addition to the problems that women in developing countries share with all human beings in the poor world - undernourishment, sickness, lack of resources, illiteracy - they also have to face those problems that are specific to women. Because of their status as second-class citizens, it is women who usually account for the highest statistics for illiteracy and lack of material and other resources on international charts. Women generally bear the heaviest burden of marginalization and exploitation by society as a whole. Moreover, they also often suffer oppression and exploitation by men. 60 to 80% of all agricultural work in Asia and Africa is done by women. Also in Africa, women are responsible for 50% of all animal husbandry, and 100% of the food processing.

In male-dominated societies typical of many developing countries, discrimination against females is characterized by: a mortality rate for female infants which is generally higher than that for females; a literacy level that is lower for girls and women; lower female life expectancy; a health and nutritional status which is worse than that for males; a death rate which is higher partly due to very high maternal mortality rates; an adverse population sex ratio; lower food intake by females; lower access to health care; lower employment opportunities and income levels.

By order of the Taleban, the extremist Islamic movement that controls most of the country, Afghan women are not allowed to work or go to school. That means that female doctors, with very few exceptions, cannot practice, and women who want to be doctors cannot be trained. But male doctors are not allowed to see or touch the bodies of female patients. Thus, health care for most women has effectively vanished. Women and girls, including babies, are dying needlessly from illnesses that are left untreated.


1. The specific problems of women in certain cultural contexts - strict norms which limit their possibilities of social, intellectual or emotional fulfilment - are added to the general problems of underdevelopment. Very often they find themselves occupying the lowest levels of society in general, and they often lack the knowledge and consciousness to struggle for their own liberation. Or, as is typical of a social group which is exploited and discriminated against, whether for ethnic, economic or sexual reasons, they discriminate against themselves and consequently consider that the discrimination imposed upon them is justified and lose interest in the struggle to free themselves from it.

2. Social change has meant social progress only for an elite minority of predominantly white, middle and upper-class women. For others -- statistically the majority -- the structural barriers of race and class remain.

Reduced by 
(C) Cross-sectoral problems