Women's suffrage and rights in the constitutions of the world

Presentation of the book

In the recognition of women’s rights, different levels of constitutional forecasting can be identified. The analysis of the Constitutions of the world of this publication takes place by highlighting the specific rights expressed in the charts with direct reference to women, sex or gender. This does not mean that the rights granted to women are only those specified and explained in this publication: a general rule of  recognition of rights to all persons or to all citizens can lead to a generic recognition either by a judge also of rights, such as access to the labor market and the recognition of a wage equal to that of a man, or equal access to public offices or public health care, even if there is no explicit constitutional provision that mentions women or both sexes. In other cases, we have rules outside the Constitution that recognize women fundamental rights, especially in the common law legal systems.

So far the formal right is, however, very important, because it directs society and in a courtroom can allow women the recognition of their often denied rights. The publication accomplishes a small step in substantive law by offering a statistical overview of the historical evolution and the increase in women elected to Parliament. Universal suffrage and the right to assume parliamentary, governmental and presidential positions represent the abc of the condition of recognition of women’s rights: and we will see how, as of 1 January 2020, only 4 parliaments in the world out of 197 have a female representation in the Lower Chamber equal to or greater than 50% of their components. In all other cases, the affirmation of the male dominates, which in the past could be identified in the rich white male. But that is not enough. The election of women in Parliament, however important in itself, may not produce an automatic improvement in the material conditions of the lives of women themselves.

The purpose of this publication, however, is to highlight the intervention of the Constituent Fathers in various countries of the world in favor of women, recognizing their biological specificity and their socio-economic conditions, in many cases unfavorable compared to those of a man. The recognition of their biological specificity ranges, for example, from the rights related to motherhood, which cannot be denied to a woman who wants to legitimately live freely the conception, the birth of a child and the growth of the child without the whole negatively affecting work and family, depriving her of her right to self-determination and full personal fulfillment. The recognition of specific socio-economic conditions, for example, extends from the removal of those legislative, financial and cultural obstacles (with a male-dominated social imprint) that prevent them from accessing the highest levels of education, to managerial work roles, to the highest positions in the State, to full emancipation. However, the impact and direction towards which certain rules referring to women tend to be well evaluated: there is in fact a concrete risk that some statements that formally protect motherhood and the possibility of contracting marriage, are more correctly to be understood as women’s role of procreator of children or wife of man, without identifying a path of valorization, emancipation and independence women, reduced by the male-dominated subculture to a secondary and non-autonomous role in society.

The method followed in identifying women’s rights in the Constitutions deliberately excluded the chapters intended for citizenship rights, which are not the subject of this study, and in the indication of universal suffrage privileged and extrapolated the general rule, omitting the details on the restrictions of the right to the active and passive electorate, which are studies pertaining to parliamentary law. The studies and essays in this publication do not presume to be exhaustive, but tenaciously pursue the objective of highlighting aspects of formal and substantive law that photograph the path taken so far in affirming the self-determination of women and the long steps still to be taken for their full independence, affirmation and emancipation in the year 2020, on the hundredth anniversary of the approval of the XIX amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, which acknowledged active and passive electoral rights for white women, yet still excluding native Americans, blacks and others belonging to ethnic minorities from the effective exercise of their rights. In the United States of America it was necessary to wait until 1966 for active and passive electoral law to become universal and substantial in all States.

The road to take in the year 2020 towards the full emancipation of women is still long, full of obstacles, male-dominated, paternalistic subcultural resistance and socio-economic conditions of serious disadvantage.