Not only the market: laws also prevent women from working

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In many countries, women are disadvantaged by law, which forbids them to perform certain jobs

Not only the market: laws also prevent women from working

In a recent post of the United Nations in its social media accounts it was announced that in 18 countries of the world there are laws that allow men to prohibit their wives to work. One can assume that these 18 are countries adhere to sharia, Islamic law, which prohibits married women from leaving the house without their husband's permission.

Leer en español: No solo el mercado: las leyes también impiden a las mujeres trabajar

Una publicación compartida de UN Women (@unwomen) el

This is the most radical example in which laws prohibit women from performing professional work and continue to condition the role of women in the economy of sharia-following countries.

However, what should be more worrying it is that there are not 18, but 104 countries where the law prohibits women from performing any work. Although the Islamic countries demonstrate with these laws a will in favor of gender inequality, they do so following traditional religious precepts. However, many of the 104 countries, whose laws limit women's employment options, do so in the 21st century and with the ability to modify legislation to remove barriers.

The figure comes from a study carried out by the World Bank in 2018, entitled Women, Business and Law 2018. "No economy can achieve its maximum potential unless women and men participate fully. Even so, in more than half of the world, women are still forbidden to perform certain jobs just because of their gender", said executive director, now temporary president of the World Bank, Kristalina Georgieva at the launch of the study.

Read also: In these jobs, women have better pays than men

These are some jobs that women cannot perform by law

  • Working with fertilizers, insecticides, and hormones in Egypt
  • Working with certain types of hammers in Guinea
  • Working with pesticides in Belarus
  • Driving trains and boats in Russia
  • Driving buses with more than 14 seats in Moldova
  • Installing electrical networks at night in Bahrain
  • Working underwater in Bangladesh
  • Carrying out jobs in cold waters while menstruating in China
  • Distillinging or selling alcohol in Argentina

Although some Islamic countries fit into this short list, in general it can be seen that laws that limit the employability and professional life of women exist in countries with many courts.

If some of these laws seem outdated, it is because they are. According to The Economist, it is the laws that remain in force since the industrial revolution that prohibit women from working at night, since assigning night work to women violated statutes of the International Labor Organization that remained in effect until 1948.

In some other cases these laws survive in countries that still follow the laws imposed on them in the colony, by the Spanish Civil Code, some Napoleonic code, or the British Commonwealth laws.

However, there are others like a law that prohibits women from driving tractors with more than 50 horsepower in Vietnam, which was introduced recently, in this case in 2013.


LatinAmerican Post | Pedro Bernal
Translated from "No solo el mercado: las leyes también impiden a las mujeres trabajar"

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