While we’re still a long way away from developing a world where males and females coincide as equals, one country is coming a lot closer to making that fantasy a reality. Recently, France adopted new gender equality legislation that is some of the most progressive in the world.
Though the law covers a lot of topics, the most buzzed about news is its impact on pro-choice individuals. In the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, women can now have an abortion without having to give any official reason or explanation. Additionally, institutions are no longer allowed to guide women away from abortions by way of trickery or misinformation campaigns.
Previously, since 1975, French women have only been able to obtain an abortion if they could demonstrate to a medical professional that being pregnant put them “in a situation of distress.” By changing this requirement, women no longer have to justify their decision to officials, instead leaving it a personal matter for them to determine privately. Najat Vallaud-Blekacem, the Minister for Women’s Rights, said, “Abortion is a right in itself and not something that is subject to conditions.”
It’s a big victory for reproductive rights, particularly considering that much of the world – including industrialized nations — is backpedaling by placing restrictions on access to abortions. In stark contrast to these other nations, France also recently passed legislation requiring the government to financially cover all legal abortions and to provide teenagers with free contraception to help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Another portion of the legislation focuses on providing greater equality to men, as well. The law not only permits but urges men to take paternity leave from work after the birth of a child for as long as mothers do. The goal of this provision is twofold. First, it provides men with equitable time for parenting newborns and lends credence to the importance a father plays in a young child’s life. Second, it helps to stop businesses from considering women lesser assets to a workplace since they might get pregnant and take a leave of absence from the job. With men able to leave work for as long as women, there’s less reason for employers to discriminate against potential female hires.
Finally, though less publicized then the aforementioned stipulations, the legislation also establishes programs to help women who are victims of domestic abuse and/or are living in poverty. Since women traditionally have less economic independence in society, France hopes to empower women to rise above the undesirable living situations they’re trapped in.