Liechtenstein is one of the smallest countries in Europe. It is also the last country in Europe to grant women suffrage. On July 1, 1984, by a small majority (51.3%) at the all-male national referendum, women legally received the right to vote with the Constitution being amended to include women citizens older than the age of 20. More than 37 years later, women’s rights in Liechtenstein still need development in comparison to Liechtenstein’s neighboring European countries.
Lack of Women’s Rights
Liechtenstein is a constitutional monarchy that observes a hereditary line of succession. This means the first-born male inherits the throne, excluding all female descendants. Criticism of this tradition has echoed throughout the country. However, it is unlikely a change will occur with this long-standing practice of the country.
Conducted by the U.S. Department of State, a 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices found gender-based discrimination in the workplace for women in Liechtenstein. Immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQIA+ and women with disabilities have come forward with their experiences of harassment in the labor market. The report identified that there were 32 cases of domestic violence against women in 2019. In addition, the country has only one women’s shelter, Frauenhaus, which housed just 13 women that year.
The report continues to also disclose that women in Liechtenstein face a significant pay difference in comparison to men. On top of the pay gap, women in Liechtenstein, specifically in private sector upper-level management, face underrepresentation with little-to-no opportunity for promotion.
Making a Change
Research on wage inequality in Liechtenstein in both private and public sectors shows that there is an average 16.5% pay gap between men and women. Analytics show that one cannot explain almost 7% of this pay gap by “objective characteristics” including training, professional status and qualifications. Reporting wages to the National Administration is one possible way to combat the gender pay gap. However, this initiative faced dismissal.
Groups like the Women’s Network argue that Liechtenstein’s government delegates the responsibility of gender equality policies to NGOs. However, political and social action to improve women’s rights in Liechtenstein is progressing. While the change has been slow, growth has been evident over the last few years.
Founded in 1997, the Women’s Section of the Liechtenstein Employees Association advocates for gender pay equality. The association does this by creating awareness campaigns, increasing national wage transparency and promoting equal pay between men and women across Liechtenstein. The economic empowerment of women is crucial in reducing any level of poverty and fighting the gender equality women in Liechtenstein face.
At the 23rd session for the United Nations General Assembly, Liechtenstein endorsed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This progressive plan works to advance women’s rights for decades across 189 countries. The Platform for Action focuses on closing the gender pay gap while enabling access to decent work for women, creating an end to violence against women, lowering maternal mortality rates and increasing women’s ability to participate in places of power in various industries across each country.
In 2016, Liechtenstein, along with all other 46 members of the European Union, signed the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention, a treaty centered around the prevention and fight against violence and domestic abuse toward women. The Convention focuses on prevention, protection, prosecution and coordinated policies. Liechtenstein did not ratify the Convention until June 17, 2021, so it will not take effect until October 21, 2021. But, it is hopeful that progress regarding gender inequality will result from the enactment.
In the country’s most recent election cycle, seven women will now serve in the parliament, setting a record of 28% female representation. During the government elections, Sabine Monauni set out to become Liechtenstein’s first female prime minister, but she will now serve as the Deputy Prime Minister. However, the totality of the newly sworn-in government is majority female with three women and two men.
As recently as a few months ago, a historic moment for women’s rights in Liechtenstein occurred. In April 2021, the Liechtenstein women’s football team competed in its first international match. While the team lost to Luxembourg, the match was a victory for the women of Liechtenstein.
The issue of women’s rights in Liechtenstein is an evolving topic and one that will hopefully continue to move in a forward motion over time. Liechtenstein is approaching four decades of women’s suffrage and systemic change is beginning to take real shape.
– Annaclaire Acosta