1. Sex discrimination and the law


The history of sex equality legislation is relatively short in comparison to other important legal issues, due to the late acceptance of the very idea that there exists some such thing as sex discrimination, and the consequent delay in devising means in order to redress it. The first step in recognising women's rights was the granting of the right to vote to women, thereby recognising that every citizen has a right to participate to the political life of his/her country. Nowadays this seems a natural consequence of the principle of equality, but we should bear in mind that this outcome dates back only to the beginning of the twentieth century, often as late as the 1940s and the 1950s(1).

The legal developments that have widened the range of application of the principle of equality between men and women to other sectors, especially in the field of labour law, are extremely recent, and still in progress. It is therefore difficult to gain a clear picture of the situation, and even more difficult to determine future trends.


(1) Previously, during the second half of the nineteenth century, many countries that experienced the industrial revolution enacted legislation that provided for the protection of children and women labour, limiting working hours, night work, and other aspects. These statutes were intended to provide special protection for weak categories, not to constitute the recognition of their autonomous entitlements.