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Poll: All Countries Favor Equal Rights For Women

International Poll Finds Large Majorities in All Countries Favor Equal Rights for Women

Widespread Support for Government and UN Action to Prevent Discrimination

According to a new poll of 16 nations from around the world there is a widespread consensus that it is important for "women to have full equality of rights" and most say it is very important. This is true in Muslim countries as well as Western countries.

In nearly all countries most people perceive that in their lifetime women have gained greater equality. Nonetheless, large majorities would like their government and the United Nations to take an active role in preventing discrimination.

The poll is being released in advance of International Woman's Day (March 8), a date recognized by the United Nations and observed around the world. This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the UN General Assembly's adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose second article declares that all are entitled to the same rights and freedoms, regardless of sex as well as race, language, religion, or other status.

The poll of 14,896 respondents was conducted by, a collaborative research project involving research centers from around the world and managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. Interviews were conducted in 16 nations including most of the largest countries: Azerbaijan, China, Egypt, France, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, the Palestinian territories, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, Ukraine, and the US. The nations included represent 58 percent of the world population.

Importance of Equality for Women

An overwhelming majority of people around the world say that it is important for "women to have full equality of rights compared to men." Large majorities in all nations polled take this position ranging from 60 percent in India to 98 percent in Mexico and Britain. On average across the 16 nations 86 percent say women's equality is important, with 59 percent saying it is very important.

Attitudes vary about whether such equality is very important or somewhat important. In seven countries large majorities say it is very important--Indonesia (71%), France (75%), China (76%), US (77%), Turkey (80%), Britain (89%), and Mexico (89%). Smaller percentages say it is very important in Egypt (31%), Russia (35%), India (41%), South Korea (43%), Ukraine (44%), and Iran (44%).

Support for equal rights is also robust in all Muslim counties. Large majorities say it is important in Iran (78%), Azerbaijan (85%), Egypt (90%), Indonesia (91%), Turkey (91%), and the Palestinian territories (93%).

Men and women differ strikingly little on this question. Across all countries 84 percent of men as well as 88 percent of women say equality is important. However a larger percentage of women say that equality is very important (women 64%, men 54%). This pattern--women slightly more likely to say that equality is important, but substantially more likely to say it is very important--appears in nearly every country.

"The idea that women should have equal rights is fairly new in the context of human history." said Steven Kull, director of "It is quite extraordinary that there is now such a global consensus across cultures not only that women should have equal rights but also that it is the responsibility of the government to prevent discrimination."

Perceived Changes in Women's Rights

Very large majorities in nearly all nations polled perceive that over the course of their own lifetime women have gained more equality of rights as compared to men. On average 71 percent perceive that women have gained greater equality of rights with 29 percent saying that they have gained much more equality and 42 percent saying say they have a little more equality.

The two exceptions are the Palestinian territories and Nigeria. Among Palestinians a slight majority (51%) says that women's rights have become less equal, while 41 percent say they have grown more equal. Nigeria is divided with 46 percent perceiving greater equality and 46 percent perceiving less equality.

The countries of the former Soviet Union also have relatively large numbers saying that there has been no real change or that women now have less equality, including 29 percent of Russians, 28 percent of Ukrainians, and 28 percent of Azerbaijanis.

India is unique in that only 53 percent say that women have gained greater equality, but an additional 14 percent volunteered the response that women now have more rights than men.

There is also considerable variation among countries in the numbers believing women have gained "much more" equality. Majorities in Egypt (57%) and Britain (52%) believe women have gained much more equality. In contrast, only 9 percent of Nigerians and 11 percent of Palestinians have this perception.

Men and women overall differ little on the question of whether women have gained greater equality--72 percent of men and 69 percent of women agree that this has occurred.

Government Intervention

Despite this widespread perception that women are gaining greater equality, there is very strong support for the government taking an active role to further women's rights. Very large majorities in nearly all nations polled say that "the government should make an effort to prevent discrimination against women." Only small minorities endorse the view that "the government should not be involved in this kind of thing."

On average, 80 percent say the government should try to prevent discrimination against women, while 15 percent say the government should not be involved in this kind of thing.

Mexico has the largest majority (96%) endorsing such intervention. India is the only country without a large majority favoring government action (53%) and the one with the largest minority saying the government should not be involved (38%).

Respondents who said their government should try to prevent discrimination were then asked whether it was doing enough in this regard. On average, 53 percent feel that the government should do more, 24 percent that the government is doing enough, and 15 percent that the government should not be involved.

However there is substantial variation between nations. In 11 nations the most common view is that the government should do more. Majorities in nine nations believe this: Mexico (83%), South Korea (73%), China (70%), Indonesia (69%), France (68%), Turkey (60%), Nigeria (61%), Palestinian territories (56%), and Britain (52%). Pluralities believe it in two countries: Ukraine (46%) and Russia (39%).

In five countries the most common view is that governments are either already doing enough to prevent discrimination or that they should not get involved. More than four out of five Egyptians (82%) say that their government is either doing enough (59%) or that it should not do anything (23%). Sixty-three percent of Indians say that the government should not be involved (38%), is doing enough (21%) or volunteer that the government is doing too much (4%). A more modest majority of Americans (52%) also think that government efforts are already sufficient (35%) or should stop (17%). Pluralities are opposed to greater intervention in Azerbaijan (30% doing enough, 15% should not be involved), and Iran (doing enough 24%, should not be involved 18%).

Overall women are only slightly more likely than men to say that the government should make an effort to prevent discrimination (83% to 78%). However, they are substantially more likely to say that the government should do more than it is to prevent discrimination against women (57% to 48%).

The Role of the United Nations

Very large majorities in nearly every nation say that the United Nations should try to further women's rights even when presented the argument that this would conflict with national sovereignty. Respondents were asked, "Do you think the UN should make efforts to further the rights of women or do you think this is improper interference in a country's internal affairs?"

In 14 out of the 16 publics polled most favor UN efforts, including large majorities in Mexico (88%), China (86%), South Korea (78%), Indonesia (74%), France (74%), Turkey (70%) and Great Britain (70%) as do substantial majorities in the Ukraine (69%), Azerbaijan (66%), Nigeria (66%) and the United States (59%). In three support is more modest: Iran (52%), Russia (52%) and India (48% favor, 28% opposed and 24% uncertain).

However in Egypt most of those polled (70%) think the United Nations should not get involved in efforts to improve women's rights and among the Palestinians views are evenly divided.

On average, 64 percent approve of UN efforts to further the rights of women, while 28 percent say this would be improper interference.



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