What began as a comprehensive analysis of the legal environment of women, worldwide, slowly evolved into a broad-based evaluation of the status of women in general with emphasis on the legal environment. Ultimately four themes were dealt with: firstly, a profile of women internationally and by region; secondly, the status of women vis-à-vis men in respect of education, employment, occupation, and income; thirdly, visible discrimination in various fields such as education, religion, wages and employment opportunities; and fourthly, the legal world of women: constitutional provisions, statutory differentiation (or discrimination), and traditional or customary law in respect of political rights, family rights (to assets, to divorce, to guardianship of children, etc.), property rights, employment rights and rights of personal autonomy, highlighted by case studies of 20 different countries.
In studying the legal environment of women it soon became evident that for the study to have both academic and practical value, a background canvass on women, a frame of reference, was both desirable and necessary to facilitate the evaluation of the content and effect of legislation in respect of the rights of women. In short, the legal worlds of women should not and indeed cannot be evaluated in a vacuum. Evaluation, appreciation or condemnation is not possible without, at least, a background of women's status in respect of education, employment, income and other factors. At the same time, the United Nations' pronouncements and constitutional formulations which decry the existence of any disabilities against women are not sufficient on their own to evaluate society's attitude towards women. These international formulations, couched in governmental language, are more often than not merely hortatory. This work is more concerned with what national governments, and not the United Nations, have promulgated, enacted and decreed as law. But the United Nations cannot be ignored as an international agency because so many of the laws and regulations which have seen the light during the past decade (to eliminate discrimination against women and promote their general welfare) came about as the result of United Nations resolutions, actions and conventions.
Without a study of the legal worlds of women, the work would have been merely descriptive of the status of women and what people, organizations, governments and international agencies believe the reality should be. But reality is found in a juxtaposition of the dynamics of women's progress and the legal order; in adherence to legal precepts, or in their denial; in legal procedures to compel enforcement; and in the search for new laws to achieve equal