Monday, March 8, 2010

Happy International Women’s Day

You may or may not know it, but March 8 is International Women’s Day. The day was first observed in 1909 to advocate for women’s rights and equality, especially in the rapidly industrializing workplace of the time. It has remained a day to promote equal rights and access for women around the world, though in the Soviet Union and its allied nations the day also became a sort of surrogate Valentine’s Day as well (as indicated by this Soviet-era International Women’s Day card below).

To commemorate International Women’s Day this year, lawmakers in India tried to pass an ambitious bill that would have required that one-third of legislative seats in the country be reserved for women. The bill was held up at the last minute by lawmakers from two of India’s regional political parties, but the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is strongly behind the bill and is determined to get it passed into law within the next few weeks. A spokesman for the prime minister chided the opposition politicians for keeping the bill from symbolically being passed on International Women’s Day. Women currently make up less than 10% of the legislature, even though they account for 44% of the voting population in India, the world’s largest democracy.

And since Iraq just held their parliamentary elections this past weekend, it is worth noting that by law 25% of the members of their new parliament will be women. That threshold was written into the new Iraqi constitution at the insistence of the United States. According to international monitoring groups, the women in Iraq’s parliament have better attendance and voting records than do their male counterparts. And the 25% representation in the Iraqi parliament is better than the rate of women representation in the United States own Congress, where only 17% of the members are women (17 in the Senate, 74 in the House) – an all-time high level for the United States.
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