The consensus of almost all qualified observers is that women, worldwide, have made their greatest gains the past 20 years in the purely legislative field. It is true this was accompanied by a vast increase in the number of women in employment and education, but the social, economic and political status of women, compared to that of men, is still one of subordination. And in the workplace wage discrimination and occupational segregation, often the result of government intervention, is still widespread.
There are islands in the women's world where individual countries have marked up progress towards equality over a broader spectrum. In certain individual countries ( Norway and Sweden, for example), women have made remarkable progress under laws designed specifically to eliminate discrimination on grounds of gender and to give women an equal chance in the field of politics, education, and employment. Not one country in the African, Asian, Latin American or the Communist world can be included in this group, which is mostly European, North American, or Nordic.
On paper, the Communist world has the most comprehensive set of laws to ensure women's equality, but it is an equality only on paper and in terms of ideology. Of this the Soviet Union is a worse culprit than China. In the Third World the gap between what appears on paper and what is happening in practice has increased rather than decreased. United Nations member states which helped launch the Decade for Women (with considerable fanfare) have openly expressed their disappointment with this development, or, rather, lack of development. "All the results point to a highly unsatisfactory situation and a deteriorating trend in the position of women in developing countries," the representative of India at the United Nations pointed out in a letter to the Secretary General of March 30, 1983. He pointed out that this deterioration took place despite the U.N. Conference on the Role of Women in the Developing States, held at Bagdad in May 1979, which specifically called for progress in women's status to become part of the national strategies of developing states. He also referred to the Seventh Conference of Heads of States of Non- aligned Countries, held at New Delhi in 1983, which gave further support to this goal. The problem is that India itself is one of the worst examples of equality that exists only on paper.
In a United Nations Report, The Decade for Women in Latin America and the Caribbean ( Santiago, Chile, 1988), the rapporteur said that there is no doubt that the de juro and de facto treatment of women in this area of the world are also two different matters. "Experience has shown that the laws are inadequate except as a means of expressing an ideal." Significant progress has