Economy September 9, 2015 | 4:17 pm

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Women in Latin America and Caribbean face wide-ranging barriers to economic opportunity, says WBG report

WASHINGTON,September 9, 2015 – Women in the Latin America and Caribbean region facewide-ranging barriers to their economic advancement. There has been progressrecently, however, in introducing comprehensive laws to protect women from manyforms of domestic violence, says the World Bank Group’s Women, Business and theLaw 2016 report, released today.

The report,finds that the region is making considerable strides towards gender equality,however, in the areas monitored by the biennial report. In the past two years,Jamaica repealed a restriction on night work for women which had been in placesince 1942; Mexico made payments for childcare tax-deductible; and Uruguayincreased the length of maternity and paternity leave. Uruguay also raised theminimum age of marriage with consent, for both boys and girls.

Nicaraguaemerged as the top reformer in the region by introducing paternity leave,giving married men and women equal rights to be head of household and to choosethe marital home. The country also raised the minimum age of marriage for girlsand boys and improved women’s property rights in cases of divorce.

InSuriname, women were granted the same rights as men to transfer theirnationality to their husbands and children. Colombia, Costa Rica and Trinidadand Tobago increased the maximum threshold of a claim that can be heard in asmall claims court, expanding access to justice to small businesses which areoften owned by women. Jamaica now has a credit bureau which reports smallloans. The accessibility of credit information can benefit women’s ability toget a loan and start a business.

The report,which examines laws that impede women’s employment and entrepreneurship, findsthat married women, in particular, face many legal restrictions against economicopportunities. In Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, St. Vincent andthe Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago, wives need to provide additionaldocumentation when applying for a passport, which is not required of husbands.In the Bahamas women face more difficulty in conferring citizenship to theirchildren and in Barbados they cannot do so at all. Such restrictions can limitwomen’s access to government services. In Bolivia, married women cannot get ajob without the permission of their husbands.

Inaddition, 16 economies in the region prohibit women from doing the same jobs asmen, says the report, which monitors 173 economies throughout the world,including 33 economies in the Latin America and Caribbean region. Belize doesnot allow women to work at night in factories or handle goods at a dock, andHonduras and Colombia restrict women from working in jobs deemed hazardous.

In terms ofviolence against women, every economy in the region, with the exception ofHaiti, has domestic violence legislation in place. But implementation andenforcement of laws protecting women from violence remains a challenge.

The regionis also making gains on other fronts. Five economies (Bolivia, Mexico, Peru,the US territory of Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago) have laws prohibitinggender discrimination in access to credit.

Severaleconomies in the region are promoting women’s political participation throughthe use of legal quotas in elected bodies. For example, Bolivia has been ableto achieve a 53 percent representation of women in its parliament with alegally mandated candidate list quota of 50 percent and sanctions for violatingthe requirement. El Salvador also imposes sanctions for not properlyimplementing candidate list quotas. In just the past two years, Mexicoincreased gender quotas for party lists in federal district elections to 50percent and introduced the requirement that male and female candidatesalternate on the list, while Haiti enacted a new electoral law requiring one ofthree city council members to be a woman.

AboutWomen, Business and the Law:

Women,Business and the Law measures how laws, regulations and institutionsdifferentiate between women and men in ways that may affect women’s incentivesor capacity to work or to set up and operate a business. It analyzes legaldifferences on the basis of gender in 173 economies, covering seven areas:accessing institutions, using property, getting a job, providing incentives towork, building credit, going to court and protecting women from violence. Thereport is published every two years.

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