Shutting doors on women: How countries are legally preventing half their population from reaching their full economic potential
November 10, 2015 Editor 0
When Niloufar Ardalan, a 30-year-old professional athlete and the captain of the Iranian women’s indoor soccer team, recently got the opportunity to represent her country and play in the Asia Cup, she and her teammates must have been thrilled. But to play in the prestigious championship, Ardalan faced a major legal hurdle — one that you might not expect: It came not from immigration law or employment law, but from family law.
Iranian law prevents married women from traveling outside the country without the permission of their husbands. Ardalan’s husband — a well-known sports journalist — wanted Ardalan to be present for their son’s first day of school so he acted within the bounds of the country’s laws. He prohibited Ardalan from traveling to Malaysia with the rest of her teammates, sparking a frenzy on Twitter and Facebook and sending shockwaves through international media. Legally, there was nothing Ardalan or her team could do. She was forced stay behind.
Such a legal restriction is hardly unique to Iran. In many countries around the world, a woman’s gender — often coupled with her marital status — can legally prevent her from taking actions she otherwise could take if she were a man. Women, Business and the Law 2016: Getting to Equal, a new World Bank Group report launched around the same time Ardalan was denied the opportunity to play in the Asia Cup, tracks such restrictions in 173 economies worldwide.
Getting To Equal: Women, Business and the Law
The report found that in six of 173 economies covered, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, a married woman cannot travel outside the country in the same way as a married man. In 30 economies, married women cannot be head of household in the same way as married men. In 32 countries, wives cannot apply for a passport in the same way as their husbands. Countries such as Spain and Switzerland had laws on the books as recent as 1978 and 1984 that required married women to obtain their husbands permission to work outside the home.
Categories: World Bank PSD
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