The United States has often faced criticism over gender-related economic issues, like the wage gap and financial security for women. These financial setbacks are part of a more extensive network of discriminatory problems women face across the country, extending into the legal system.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a magnifying glass to these issues. The health crisis significantly impacted female-dominated industries and jobs. Additionally, many women taking care of families found childcare duties fell to them when remote schooling was in session, further affecting their ability to work.
On top of this, these financial issues combine with legal discrimination. From restrictions on women owning property to struggles to obtain alimony payments, our society has made it especially challenging for women to succeed.
Women, Business, and the Law recently released new data on women’s access to family and civil courts.Their findings on COVID-19’s impact are multifaceted and affects women’s access to justice.
COVID-19 Added to Women’s Court Struggles
Since March 2020, women have reported much higher rates of legal issues than men, particularly in the areas of social welfare, family, and children. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, courts worldwide have reduced staffing or shut down altogether to limit the virus’s spread.
“While shutdowns were helpful for public health, it made it a lot more difficult for women to access courts when they needed to claim alimony, inheritance, or child custody,” Charles D. Jamieson shares. “Unfortunately, it also kept women from getting protection orders or filing for divorce.”
However, the pandemic shutdowns also allowed courts to make some crucial changes that will help grant women more access to legal justice, both now and in the future.
More Judicial Access For Women Worldwide
Judicial systems around the world are coming up with plans to allow women better access to justice. For example, 72 countries introduced measures that made family cases urgent or essential during COVID lockdowns, ensuring women got the help they needed. One country that did this was Japan, where court activity was limited, but urgent family cases like child custody cases proceeded as usual.
The pandemic certainly emphasized the need for digital services among court systems, too. 88 countries now allow family law issues to be conducted virtually, while another 26 have some sort of measures in place for remote court access.
The pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote technology in courts around the world, similar to how it did in schools and many businesses. Women, Business and the Law analyzed 190 economies and found that 42 percent of them introduced remote access laws or policies throughout the pandemic.
What We Can Learn
While remote court access has been beneficial to many women, it is essential not to forget that many women cannot access the technology necessary to take part in online court hearings. This is especially true in low-income countries.
Women generally have less internet access than men worldwide. Plus, existing financial strains caused by gender inequality limit women’s property rights in about 40% of the world’s economies.
While court systems make progress with remote technologies during the pandemic, reform needs to continue in other areas to push for gender equality in both the financial and legal sectors. Policymakers across the globe need to continue fighting to give women more rights in these areas.