The Fight for Rights: Five Gains and Five Losses for Women in 2018

Published 5 years ago

While Saudi Arabia allowed women to drive this year and Ethiopia appointed its first female president, in other countries in 2018 women were punished for being raped or wanting control of their reproductive rights.

Here are some gains and losses for women around the world in the past year:


1. Ireland in May voted to repeal its strict abortion laws in a landslide victory. Nearly half of an estimated 56 million abortions conducted each year are unsafe, leading to the deaths of at least 22,800 women, according to a global March report by the Guttmacher Institute.


2. Saudi Arabia allowed women to drive for the first time in June. But dozens of activists who campaigned for the right to drive and the end of male guardianship were detained soon after the ban was lifted.

3. Ethiopia elected its first female president Sahle-Work Zewde in October, and appointed Meaza Ashenafi to be its first female supreme court president a month later. Ethiopia became the third country in Africa – after Rwanda and Seychelles – to have its cabinet split equally between men and women.

4. Iceland in January become the first country to make it illegal to pay men more than women, introducing fines on any company or government agency with over 25 staff without a government certificate demonstrating pay equality.

5. The #MeToo movement, sparked by revelations of sexual misconduct in Hollywood, swept through workplaces worldwide in 2018, spawning investigations and toppling hundreds of high-profile men from positions of power. In parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia, however, the campaign has struggled to gain momentum.


1. Argentina in August rejected a move to legalize abortion. Uruguay and Cuba are the only Latin American countries that now have broadly legalized abortion.

2. U.S. President Donald Trump in May issued a proposal that would effectively stop giving government funds to subsidize birth control and abortions. The so-called global gag rule has put more than $8 billion of annual funding at risk, from clinics for HIV-affected sex workers in Ethiopia to programs aimed at curbing teen pregnancy in remote Uganda, campaigners have warned.

3. Kenyan lawmakers in November blocked a push to give one in three parliamentary seats to women.

4. In December, on the sixth anniversary of a fatal gang rape in New Delhi that prompted global outrage, a security guard was arrested after the rape a three-year-old girl, accused of luring her with sweets.


5. A 19-year-old Sudanese woman, Noura Hussein, who was a child bride, was sentenced to death in May when she killed her husband after he tried to rape her. Hussein’s sentence was overturned after global outrage, but she was still sentenced to five years in jail. -Reuters

– Lin Taylor