Ten Unbelievably Sexist Laws
NEW DELHI: March 8 was celebrated the world over as International Women’s Day (IWD). The internet was flooded with tributes aimed at women, commenting on how far gender equality has come along.
Whilst it is important to acknowledge the successes of the women’s rights movement, it is equally important to note that equality is still a long way off. This realization prompted its own hashtag -- #NotThere -- as a symbolic measure of the journey toward equality.
Demonstrating that gender equality is a long way off is not difficult. From statistics relating to gender violence and abuse to female foeticides to gender disparities in education, health, employment… the list goes on.
Here, however, we take a look at a more bizarre measure of gender inequality: The law. Even in countries known to be progressive, strangely sexist laws continue to exist.
1. Women cannot drive (or vote) in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving. The law made headlines with a Saudi cleric Sheikh Saleh al-Lohaidan announced that driving "harms women's ovaries.” "If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards," said Sheikh Lohaidan on the news website Sabq.org.
However, driving is not the only thing women in Saudi Arabia cannot do. They also cannot go anywhere without a male chaperone, try on clothes when shopping, go swimming, or vote in elections.
2. Women cannot wear pants in Swaziland, and couldn’t -- till recently -- in Paris
Yes you read that right. Women in Swaziland are banned from wearing pants, and till January 2013, and archaic law in Paris barred women from wearing men's clothing without seeking "special permission.” The Parisian law was amended in 1892 and in 1909, to allow women to wear trousers without prior permission "if the woman is holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse.”
3. Marital rape is legal in India
"Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape." Great coming from a country that is constantly in the headlines for gender violence.
India, however, is not the only country where marital rape is legal. It is also legal in Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and a host of other countries.
4. It’s completely the opposite in the Bahamas. Everything other than marital sex is rape.
A Bahamian act dating from 1991 defines rape as anyone older than 14 "having sexual intercourse with another person who is not his spouse."
5. Women cannot cut their hair without spousal permission in Michigan.
If you’re a married woman in Michigan in the United States, you need permission from hub before you get that haircut. Compare this to Oklahoma -- where women must be licensed to do their own hair.
6. Women cannot drink coffee in Arcadia, Greece
Cannot drink coffee after 6 PM that is. Guess that’s still better than a law in La Paz, Bolivia that prohibits married women from drinking wine, unless it’s in the presence of her husband -- of course.
7. Women cannot watch sports in Iran
Remember Ghoncheh Ghavami? She’s a British-Iranian woman who was kept in solitary confinement for over 40 days for … trying to watch a volleyball game. She was arrested with a number of other female fans who were peacefully demanding to be let in to watch the match (Iran was playing Italy), as a measure of protest against the regressive law that bans women attending sporting events.
8. Women cannot call a man who is on a date in Dyersburg, TN
It’s illegal to call him whilst he’s on a date in Dyersburg, Tennessee.
9. Women in Turkey need their husbands permission if they want to work.
And women in Guinea are not allowed to have "a separate profession from that of her husband" if he objects.
10. Women in Florida cannot live with their boyfriend (and if they’re single, divorced or widowed… they cannot skydive on a Sunday).
Cohabitation laws in Florida, (and Michigan and Mississippi) make it technically illegal for any unmarried man and woman to “lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together.” Worst still, a law bans single, divorced or widowed women from parachuting on Sundays.
Surprised? Don’t be. These laws are just the tip of the iceberg. In one California town, women cannot wear high heels without a permit. In North Carolina, women cannot change their mind about giving consent. In Afghanistan, a law that prohibited a relative of the accused from testifying against them was almost signed into effect. In Vatican City, women cannot divorce nor vote. In the Philippines divorce is illegal. In Kenya, polygamy is legal. In Malta, a kidnapper "after abducting a person, shall marry such person, he shall not be liable to prosecution." In Andhra Pradesh, India, women cannot enter a pub after 10 PM. In Asra village, UP, women under 40 cannot enter the marketplace and women cannot use cell phones -- courtesy a Panchayat ruling. Women in Vermont must have permission from their husbands to wear false teeth.
The list goes on…