By Alexis R. Milan
A new World Bank report on gender equality based on the progress of opportunities for women, has found that among the 173 examined countries, Belize has made improvements in fostering female participation in education and the labor force.
While that is the case, however, the report shows that we still have a long way to go to bridge the gap.
According to the report, in comparison with many other countries in the world, Belize has made great strides to closing the gender gap, but there are areas that still need to be focused on.
Around 52 percent of Belize’s labor force is made up of women, though many of these are unskilled jobs, the report shows. It also notes that women’s rights are enshrined in the Constitution of Belize and contains a clause on equality.
The report does note, however, that there are no frameworks in place or existing quotas for women on corporate boards, in parliament or in local government and as a result, these places are mostly filled by men.
According to the report, a married woman in Belize cannot apply for a passport the same way a man or single woman can. It does note, though, that unlike many countries, mostly in the East, married women can travel freely domestically and internationally, seek employment in the same way a man can, as well as sign contracts, register businesses, open bank accounts and choose where to live.
Men and women have equal rights to property ownership, the report said, noting that there is separation of property under marriage. Boys and girls also have equal rights to inheritance as do surviving spouses of either gender.
Women have equal access to the court system and a woman’s testimony is afforded the same weight as that of a man, the report added. It also noted that on the judiciary, there are only two women justices represented. The report also made note of Belize’s legislation protecting women from violence and sexual abuse.
According to the report, women are afforded maternity leave, in which the government pays 80 percent of their salary. It added that because men aren’t granted paternity leave, women are often left with the brunt of child care responsibilities.
Overall, the report said that the world had made progress in terms of gender equality but reminded that women are barred from working in certain factory jobs in 41 economies.
In 29 economies they are prohibited from working at night, and in 18 economies they cannot get a job without permission from their husbands.
Only half of the economies covered have paternity leave, and less than a third have parental leave, limiting men’s ability to share childcare responsibilities. In 30 economies, married women cannot choose where to live and in 19 they are legally obligated to obey their husbands.