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Whether it be in Canada
or throughout the world, laws have continued to evolve and change as the years
go on to better suit society’s changes. This includes women’s rights. Whether
it be the right to vote or the ability to own property, women have come a long
way in relation to the law. Throughout Canada’s history, women have earned the
right to own property, to vote in elections, to fair wages, and the elimination
of legalized discrimination. Although, there is still a lot to be done in many
countries. Questions posed are: How has Canada’s laws changed in response to
women’s issues? What protects women’s rights in Canada? Internationally? How
does Canada’s laws relating to women’s rights differ from laws relating to
women’s rights in a country like Saudi Arabia?


Canadian history, women have accomplished remarkable things involving their
rights in matters such as law. One of the most historic moments in Canadian
history for this movement was the women’s suffrage movement. The women’s
suffrage movement is the right for women to vote in political elections. By the
mid nineteenth century, full citizenship was legally limited to white males.
This was mandated at the federal and provincial levels all over Canada,
explicitly excluding women voters. Women had won the right to vote legally
provincially in Manitoba in 1916, then Saskatchewan and Alberta within the same
year. The right was then won in British Columbia and Ontario in 1917. The right
to vote federally was given to those women who were relatives of
any person in the military who was serving or served with Canada or Great
Britain during the First World War, as well as women serving in the military in
1917. This was a way for the government to be able to get more votes for their
proposal of conscription instead of a success for women’s suffrage, but
nevertheless was a success for the movement. 8 months later in 1918, this right
was extended to women “who are British subjects, 21 years of age, and otherwise
meet the qualifications entitling a man to vote, are entitled to vote in a
Dominion election.” Women continued to win the right to vote legally through
protests and campaigning up until the last province amended their law to allow
women to vote. This was Quebec in 1940. All of these, though, only pertained to
women who were Caucasian and men and women who were African-American. In 1948,
Canada ended any Asian exclusions, and in 1951 the government ended the
exclusions of Inuit people. The last exclusion was that of First Nations which
was ended in 1960. In 1929, women also changed the legal definition of a
‘person’ in the persons case, enabling women to be appointed to the Senate.

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Another important aspect
to Canada’s history of women’s rights is those rights related to property,
abuse laws, divorce laws, and more.
Starting in Ontario in 1884 and
Manitoba in 1900, the Married Women’s Property Act allowed married women in
these provinces the same legal rights as men, which allowed women to enter into
legal agreements and buy property. The rest of the provinces and territories eventually
signed as well, with Quebec finally signing the Married Women’s Property Act in
1964. A major advancement involving labour was the Fair Employment Practices
Act and the Female Employees Fair Remuneration Act in Ontario, in 1951. The
rest of the country quickly followed suit and federally the following were implanted,
the Canada
Fair Employment Practices Act of 1953, which applied to the civil service, the
Female Employees Equal Pay Act of 1956, which made wage discrimination based on
sex against the law, and the Employment Equity Act of 1986, which applies to federally
controlled employees and necessitates employers to recognise and remove
needless barricades that limit employment opportunities.

            Currently, women’s rights
are legally bound in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms under equality laws.
Section 15 “without discrimination … based on race, national or ethnic
origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” and
Section 28 guarantees that all rights covered in the Charter apply equally to
men and women. The Canadian Human Rights Act from 1977 states that all
Canadians have the right to equality, equal opportunity, fair treatment, and an
environment free of discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation,
marital status and family status. It protects all Canadians from discrimination
when they are employed by or obtain services from the federal government, First
Nations governments, or private companies that are regulated by the federal
government. Canada currently protects women’s rights as they protect all
Canadian’s rights, free from discrimination and entitled to equality.

women’s rights are protected by and advocated for by the UN and humanitarian
groups like the Human Rights Watch. The United Nations’ Declaration of Human
Rights from 1948 contains all the rights of a human being. This declaration
safeguards women’s rights through article 2; “Everyone is entitled to all the
rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any
kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other
opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political,
jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a
person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under
any other limitation of sovereignty”; article 6; “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a
person before the law”; article 7; “All are equal before the law and are
entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are
entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this
Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination” and more. These
are only a few examples of rights guaranteed to all humans under the United
Nations. It is expected that these rights are protected universally, as the
declaration has been translated into over 500 languages.

            Many countries are
still lacking in women’s rights though, like Saudi Arabia. Women in Saudi
Arabia are required, by law, to obtain the permission of a male guardian,
usually a husband, father, or son. They are often required to obtain this
consent in order to work or receive healthcare as well. The law in Saudi Arabia
is dictated by the Sharia, which is based on Islamic
law derived from the Qur’an and
the Sunnah of the prophet Islam. Women must remain covered,
generally in an ankle length dress with long sleeves, never pants. Saudi Arabia
is the only country in which women are still banned from driving. They are
unable to get their license because they believe that women driving will have
“negative consequences”. Finally, though, hhe ban is expected to be lifted June
of 2018 after countless women in Saudi Arabia silent protesting to ban. This is
very different from Canada’s laws today regarding women’s rights. It is against
the law to refuse a government service based on someone’s sex. Women are
treated as equals in Canada, allowed the right to do want they choose to
without the permission of a man. In Saudi Arabia women are treated as minors
from the day they are born to the day that they die. Many of the enforced laws
by the Saudi Arabia government and religious police go against what the United
Nations declaration of Human Rights states, showing the lack of equality.

            Looking at how much the law
has adapted to the ongoing changes in society regarding any social issue is a
testament to our ability to recognize mistakes or issues and address them.
Relating to women’s rights, globally having them recognized is immensely
important. Women make up 50% of the population yet were not looked at as equals
under the law in many countries for a very long time. Even Saudi Arabia today
still does not treat women with the same rights as they do men, which is not
only amoral but goes against the Declaration of Human Rights. With more humanitarian
work and acknowledging the issues still going on around the world, addressing them
will become priority. As history has shown, in order for an issue to be resolved
it needs to be brought up and talked about until it is solved. Countries like Canada,
the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, and countless more protect women from discrimination
and the likes. Women’s rights have evolved revolving recognition in the law tremendously,
whether that be in Canada or internationally. By just having the Declaration of
Human Rights it shows a tremendous dedication and advancement in rights amongst
all people. Although there is still a far way for some countries to go until they
are recognizing these rights in their laws, any advancement is an advancement.