5 Legal Issues for Women: Where to Turn for Help
To commemorate International Women's Day, let's discuss the myriad legal issues women face and the resources that are available at their fingertips.
Despite significant gains in gender equality over the past century, women are still victims of harassment, assault, and discrimination in the workplace and at home.
Here are five legal issues women grapple with and where they can turn for help:
- Divorce and child custody. Family law encompasses a wide variety of legal issues that deeply impact women, including child custody, child support, and divorce. Low-income women in family court typically rely upon legal support from local legal services offices to represent them. Reform through policy and impact litigation can protect the rights of mothers and women on a larger scale.
- Employment. According to Marcia Angell's piece in The New York Review of Books, "women in more than token numbers have taken their place alongside men at the upper levels of government, the professions, and business, [...] earn more than half of all college degrees, and will shortly make up a majority of lawyers, doctors, and college faculty." Despite strides made toward achieving greater workplace equality, gender discriminatory barriers continue to exist at work regarding pregnancy, breastfeeding, child care, equal pay, and sexual harassment.
- Domestic violence. At the intersection of family law and criminal law is domestic violence. One of the first issues with which a domestic violence victim needs legal assistance is getting protection from abuse orders. Many attorneys offer pro bono or reduced-fee services to assist victims with these needs. A domestic violence attorney can also assist a victim with other ancillary issues such as getting through a trial, considering mediation, and protecting children. FindLaw's section on Domestic Violence Victim Resources can provide additional guidance.
- Sexual assault. Rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment continue to pose a great threat to women. Many advocacy organizations have resources available to assist sexual assault victims. For example, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network has information on hotlines, local counseling centers, international resources, and other resources.
- Business ownership. There are now more ladies serving as general counsel at Fortune 500 companies than ever before. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Women currently boast ownership of 30 percent of all businesses. In addition, women-owned businesses receive more Small Business Association-approved loans than ever before, innovate entrepreneurial styles, generate huge revenue, and create the most jobs.
As Gloria Steinem sums it up, "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."