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International Day on 8 March: how women's rights have changed in France

Vue 250 回

With the French parliament about to amended the Constitution to include the freedom of women to interrupt their pregnancy, the day of 8 March, International Women’s Rights Day, takes a special turn in France. And it’s a good opportunity to have a look at the past for a few key dates in the progress of women’s rights in France. A slow evolution still marked by gender stereotypes, as show two studies recently released.

On Vie Publique, the public and national general information website, a timeline of these rights is set with major historical steps, which also show that, as Simone de Beauvoir wrote, that such rights are fragile. “Never forget that it only takes one political, economic or religious crisis for women's rights to be put in jeopardy”, she said.

 

A brief timeline of women’s rights in France

The day of 8 March 2024 is organised on the subject “Investing in favour of women: improving the pace”. And the pace, whether quick or not, is indeed the issue in the slow progress of women’s rights accomplished in major steps. And now, contrarily to popular belief, the French revolution did not “change the condition of women and open the way to their citizenship”. In France, women had to wait for the 19th century to have access to education and, as underlines the website Vie publique, wait for the First World War for men to realize that women are “key to the proper working of economy”.

After the ordinance of April 1944 granting the right to vote and eligibility for women, things start to gain pace. In the second half of the 20th century, social demands from women deal all aspects of social, economic and political life, and they act for true equality A few major steps and about 15 key dates mark these new demands and their translation into legal or social progress:

- 1946, equality between women and men is written in the Preamble of the French Constitution;

- 1965, law amending matrimonial regime: women may manage their assets and work in a professional occupation without consent from their husband;

- 1967, law legally authorising contraception;

- 1975, law legally authorising interruption of pregnancy;

- 1980, novel writer Marguerite Yourcenar is admitted in the French Academy: about 345 years after the creation of the institution, she is the first woman to join it;

- 1982, adoption of a proposition by minister to women’s rights to make 8 March 1982 the first International Women’s Rights Day;

- 1983, a first law to settle professional equality between men and women;

- 1991, a woman is appointed Prime Minister for the first time;

- 1995, Marie Curie is the first woman to enter the French pantheon “for her merits”;

- 1998, circular about the feminisation of names of occupations, functions, grades or titles;

- 2004, first plan to fight violence against women;

- 2006, law on wage equality between men and women;

- 2010, the fight against violence to women is declared major national cause;

- 2021, law broadening medically-assisted procreation for women couples and single women.

- 2022, for the first time, a woman is elected president of the French national assembly.

 

Most of the French reject gender stereotypes

This sum up of key dates of women’s rights is part of a broader backdrop: gender equality. On this matter, the Directorate for Research, Studies, Evaluation and Statistics (DREES in French, supervised by the ministries of health and economy) released a study showing that the majority of the French reject gender stereotypes.

According to this opinion barometer, more than one individual out of two in France rejects gender stereotypes and women/men division. However, one individual out of four agrees with it, and one out of four is ambivalent about the issue. In detail, adhering to these stereotypes shows more among men, the elderly, people of foreign origin and people with religious practice. On the contrary, women, the young and people with a degree in higher studies are overpresent in the share of people rejecting such clichés. The DREES also underlines that the study confirms “an inequal division of household chores in couples, even deeper when there is compliance with gender stereotypes”.

However, whatever the level of agreement to stereotyped representations, “the idea that girls have as much a scientific mind than boys is widely accepted in all the population”! In parallel, the study says, “some gender stereotypes are deeply rooted: most of people agree that mothers know better how to take care of children than fathers"...

 

Slow progress towards true equality

The publication of this study is in line with the release of another study from the ministry in charge of men/women equality that published its annual work “Key figures: towards true equality between men and women”, a reference statistical presentation gathering every year the data of the latest data available about equality between men and women.

According to the study, “the slow progress from women in all aspects of French society” really shows. However, “there are still inequalities and sexist representations”, as show the men/women wage gap, the share of women in executives or the under-representation of women in political and elective occupations. And in line with the previous DREES study, the study from the ministry also shows that “professional orientation and activity still shows a lot of gender stereotypes”: women who choose occupations more focused on care and social aspects at the expense of engineering careers or industry, for example. As the minister in charge of equality writes in the editorial opening the study, “the fight for equality must experience a deep and long-lasting change of mindsets to wash off enclosing stereotypes. This must be done at the youngest age possible and all stages of life. Much has been done, but we must also fight the roots of the problem, from sexist representations to lasting inequalities and the place that society gives to women”.

 

 




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