Women

   A paradox exists regarding the equality of women in Portuguese society. Although the Constitution of 1976 gave women full equality in rights, and the right to vote had already been granted under Prime Minister Marcello Caetano during the Estado Novo, a gap existed between legal reality and social practice. In many respects, the last 30 years have brought important social and political changes with benefits for women. In addition to the franchise, women won—at least on paper—equal property-owning rights and the right of freedom of movement (getting passports, etc.). The workforce and the electorate afforded a much larger role for women, as more than 45 percent of the labor force and more than 50 percent of the electorate are women. More women than ever attend universities, and they play a larger role in university student bodies. Also, more than ever before, they are represented in the learned professions. In politics, a woman served briefly as prime minister in 1979-80: Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo. Women are members of government cabinets ("councils"); women are in the judicial system, and, in the late 1980s, some 25 women were elected members of parliament (Assembly of the Republic). Moreover, women are now members of the police and armed forces, and some women, like Olympic marathoner Rosa Mota, are top athletes.
   Portuguese feminists participated in a long struggle for equality in all phases of life. An early such feminist was Ana de Castro Osório (1872-1935), a writer and teacher. Another leader in Portugal's women's movement, in a later generation, was Maria Lamas (18931983). Despite the fact that Portugal lacked a strong women's movement, women did resist the Estado Novo, and some progress occurred during the final phase of the authoritarian regime. In the general elections of 1969, women were granted equal voting rights for the first time. Nevertheless, Portuguese women still lacked many of the rights of their counterparts in other Western European countries. A later generation of feminists, symbolized by the three women writers known as "The Three Marias," made symbolic protests through their sensational writings. In 1972, a book by the three women writers, all born in the late 1930s or early 1940s (Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta, and Maria Velho da Costa), was seized by the government and the authors were arrested and put on trial for their writings and outspoken views, which included the assertion of women's rights to sexual and reproductive freedom.
   The Revolution of 25 April 1974 overthrew the Estado Novo and established in law, if not fully in actual practice in society, a full range of rights for women. The paradox in Portuguese society was that, despite the fact that sexual equality was legislated "from the top down," a gap remained between what the law said and what happened in society. Despite the relatively new laws and although women now played a larger role in the workforce, women continued to suffer discrimination and exclusion. Strong pressures remained for conformity to old ways, a hardy machismo culture continued, and there was elitism as well as inequality among classes. As the 21st century commenced, women played a more prominent role in society, government, and culture, but the practice of full equality was lacking, and the institutions of the polity, including the judicial and law enforcement systems, did not always carry out the law.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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