Media Supermajority Education Fund

There’s A Global Backlash Against Women’s Rights Happening Right Now


The first-ever gender social norm index, an analysis conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDA), has found that almost 90 percent of people worldwide hold some sort of bias against women with regards to economics, education, politics, reproductive rights or violence. The index examined data from 75 countries across the globe that represent more than 80 percent of the world’s population.

Researchers specifically examined how every day social attitudes reflect how people view women and girls and found that women continue to be discriminated against in all aspects of life — especially with regards to health, education, and the workplace.

“We have come a long way in recent decades to ensure that women have the same access to life’s basic needs as me,” said the head of UNDP’s Human Development Report Office Pedro Conceição in a statement. Conceição specifically noted the gains girls have made worldwide with regards to primary school enrollment and the fact that maternal mortality has reduced worldwide by 45 percent since 1990. “But gender gaps are still all too obvious in other areas, particularly those that challenge power relations and are most influential in actually achieving true equality.”

Examples of the biases detailed in the index include the fact that half of the world’s men and women believe that men make better political leaders, and 40 percent believe men make better executives. The index also details what it calls the “power gap” between men and women worldwide, noting that women are paid less than men across the globe and are significantly less likely to hold senior positions. In terms of political power, the gap expresses itself in the fact that women hold only 24 percent of parliamentary seats worldwide, and there are currently only ten women who are heads of state.

Experts who specialize in gender justice and equality say these attitudes may be in response to what women have achieved in recent years. “Oftentimes, what we see is if there is progress in women’s rights — whether that is rights-based or socioeconomically — then there is a backlash,” Tarah Demant, the director of the Gender, Sexuality, and Identity Program at Amnesty International USA told Supermajority News. “But the reality is that human rights is not like pie; one person getting a piece doesn’t mean that someone else gets less.”

Demant added that because the women’s rights movement in the United States often focuses on women abroad, Americans can sometimes overlook issues that affect women, girls, and LGBTI people in their own country. “A report like this can seem shocking since it cuts across so many countries, but the reality is that’s the way it has been the whole time,” she said, noting that examples of the infringing of women’s rights in the United States can be seen in the proposed restrictions of abortion access in certain regions and proposed restrictions on LGBTI rights. “At the base of it, it is the same issue of controlling women’s lives, bodies, and choices.”