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Portuguese women gained full legal equality with men
relatively recently. Until the reforms made possible by
Revolution of 1974, Portuguese women had notably fewer
economic, or personal rights than the women of other
countries. In family matters, they were subordinate to
husbands, having to defer to male decisions about how the
children should be reared and educated. It was only in
all married women obtained the right to obtain a passport
leave Portugal without their husbands' consent. The
of 1976 guaranteed Portuguese women full equality for the
time in Portuguese history. However, this equality was not
attained through steady progress, but rather after
For centuries, Portuguese women were obliged by law and
custom to be subservient to men. Women had few rights of
legal or financial nature and were forced to rely on the
benevolence of their male relatives. Late in the
century and early in the twentieth century, some educated
saw the need for women's equality and emancipation. A
Portuguese suffragette movement formed, and some young
began to receive higher educations. Shortly after the
proclamation of the First Republic in the fall of 1910,
enacted establishing legal equality in marriage, requiring
marriages, freeing women of the obligation to remain with
husbands, and permitting divorce. However, women were
allowed to manage property or to vote.
Salazar's Estado Novo meant the end to these advances.
constitution of 1933 proclaimed everyone equal before the
"except for women, the differences resulting from their
and for the good of the family." Although the regime
women with a secondary education to vote (men needed only
and write), it once again obliged women to remain with
husbands. The Concordat of 1940 between the Portuguese
and the Roman Catholic Church gave legal validity to
within the church and forbade divorce in such marriages.
amendments to the civil code, even in the 1960s, cemented
husband's dominance in marriage.
The constitution of 1976 brought Portuguese women full
equality. Anyone eighteen or over was granted the right to
and full equality in marriage was guaranteed. A state
Commission on the Status of Women, was established and
on was attached to the prime minister's office. Its task
improve the position of women in Portugal and to oversee
protection of their rights. This entity was renamed the
Commission for Equality and Women's Rights (Comissão para
Igualdade e Direitos das Mulheres) in 1991.
The position of women improved as a result of these
reforms. By the early 1990s, women were prominent in many
professions. Thirty-seven percent of all physicians were
as were many lawyers. Slightly more than half of those
in higher education were women. Working-class women also
gains. A modernizing economy meant that many women could
employment in offices and factories and that they had a
standard of living than their mothers.
Despite these significant gains, however, Portuguese
still had not achieved full social and economic equality.
remained underrepresented in most upper-level positions,
public or private. Women usually held less than 10 percent
seats in the country's parliament. Women were also rarely
members or judges. In the main trade unions, women's
leadership positions was proportionally only half their
union membership, and, on the whole, working-class women
less than their male counterparts.
Data as of January 1993