There are a lot of places in the world where women are second class citizens. On the worst end of the spectrum, they are not allowed to vote, drive, or hold public office. Even when it comes to basic things like wage equality or the ability to hold men accountable for their misdeeds, many “developed” countries fall behind. But some of these gender injustices that we take as a forgone conclusion do not have to be part of a normal functioning society. These are some of the countries in the world that get it right.
Scandinavia is a great place to live if you’re a woman, and Denmark is leading the charge
. With almost 40% of parliament made up of women, the country boasts some of the most comprehensive child-care and paternity leave laws in Europe. In Denmark, the ability to rear and raise a child is not linked to the need for a woman to tether herself to a man for the rest of her life; up to 54% of births in the country are to unmarried mothers.
With one of the best Gender Gap
rankings in the world, the relative gap between men and women in Sweden with regards to wages, education, and politics is nearly zero. Sweden ensures continued gender equality with special gender research commissions in the government. Sweden’s government also recently expanded sexual assault law to have one of the widest legal definitions of rape in the world. This means that a behavior that would, say… qualify you to serve on the US Supreme Court, would be prosecuted as rape in Sweden.
Norway has had voluntary gender quotas in their political parties since the 1970s. As a result of women’s wide representation in government, men and women are fairly equal in educational attainment, health, and economic participation and opportunity. Imagine a world where mothers get nearly a year of paid maternity leave, that’s Norway.
Of all the countries I’ve visited, I consider Iceland
to be the one truly perfect society. And as such, Iceland doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the basic human rights of its female citizens. It ranks first in the Global Gender Gap Index, with the highest proportion of women in the workforce. Iceland also has the distinction of having the world’s first democratically elected female president and the world’s first openly gay female prime minister.
Think legalized prostitution is a gross disrespect to women? Think again. Despite being known more for naked women in the windows of the Red Light District
, the Netherlands ranks high in terms of gender equality. Aside from high participation opportunity in the workforce, men and women have equal right to health care and education. The government even provides a maternity nurse to new mothers.
While the rest of the world has spent a fair part of the last century fighting for women’s suffrage, Finland gave women unrestricted rights to vote and run for government around the beginning of the 20th
century. In the year 2000, Finland elected the first female president, who remained in power for 12 years. Pay equality is ensured by a law that requires employers to maintain men and women’s pay comparison.
The Irish have had a female head of state for 21 out of the last 50 years, making them one of the most politically progressive countries for women. And can you believe it? No wars. As it turns out, women are not
too emotional to lead. Women in Ireland go on to pursue doctorate education and professional work at a higher rate than their male counterparts.
Bonus: Kihnu, Estonia
If you’re literally so done with men that you don’t even want to share a piece of land with them, allow me to introduce you to Kihnu
, a traditional matriarchal society in Estonia. The men of this Baltic island are mostly fishermen so they’re gone for months at a time, leaving the women to run everything and act as the keepers of their culture.
While women in the western world fight to change the things they can no longer accept, it’s helpful to remember that norms are relative. If you can’t change things by voting, change them by moving.