October 25 2011
What Really Advances Women's Rights?
Carrie L. Lukas
Few are shedding tears over the death of Libya's former dictator, Gaddafi. Yet what's happened in Libya is hardly a clear victory for women. Particularly, if the country moves toward embracing Sharia law, then Libyan women will continue to face the potential for significant human rights abuses.
I believe it's an under-reported story that one of the core disputes in the modern conflict between radical Islamists and the Western world is the rightful place of women in society. Many in the United States, particularly those in academia and on the Left, seem reluctant to acknowledge that it is the Western world—yes, that patriarchal, capitalist mess that feminist love to complain about—that best protects women's interests. We are imperfect to be sure, but rights we take for grant—to vote, own property, receive equal treatment under the law, decide who to marry and divorce—are absent in too many places where radical Islamists dominate.
Those in the throes of political correctness find this an awkward discussion, as if acknowledge this basic fact is to succumb to anti-Muslim hysteria. It goes without saying that not all Muslims support this radical version of Islamic law, but it's clear that a significant portion of the Middle East's leadership does. That's a fact that supporters of women's equality can't shy away from.
So what does advance women's interests? Simply put, where there is economic liberty, there's greater women's equality. As Michael Stroup writes in Forbes:
Empirical research has shown that advances in women’s welfare and empowerment have been much greater among those countries that have well-established private property rights, maintained a consistent rule of law and relied more upon the free market process to allocate productive resources in the economy. In other words, world-wide data show that women’s well-being and opportunity is best enhanced by the presence of economic freedom.
Those used to hearing from groups like the National Organization for Women, who constantly push for bigger government, more regulation, higher taxes, and more transfer payments as necessary for women's empowerment, are sometimes surprised when I describe IWF and our belief that limited government, free markets and greater liberty are really the key to women's progress.
This research confirms the facts are on our side.