Reproduction, Sex Equality and Protective Legislation

  • Alena Heitlinger


Despite the positive changes in the nature of women’s work brought about by scientific and technological progress, we do not believe that protective legislation has outlived its usefulness. Women clearly have their own distinctive physiological characteristics. (Biryukova, 1980, p. 53)

Protective reproductive legislation can be separated into three distinct categories: (1) protective labour laws, whose primary goal is the reduction of health hazards (including reproductive risks) to employees, (2) social security measures providing job guarantees and financial compensation during maternity leave, thus enabling women to combine their productive and reproductive roles, and (3) family legislation, upholding equality within marriage.


Maternity Leave Socialist Country Woman Worker Protective Legislation Night Work 
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  1. 1.
    This practice was criticised by the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Union of Women in an open letter to the government, which was published in the mass circulation women’s magazine Vlasta on 24 April 1968, during the ‘Prague Spring’. See also Scott (1974, p. 22) who quotes a study of women in agriculture published in a Czech farmers’ daily in 1969.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    In Canada only Quebec among all the provinces provides similar guarantees. An occupational health and safety act, passed in 1979, gives pregnant women the right to request re-assignment to work she can reasonably perform. If this request is not complied with immediately, the employee may stop working until she is re-assigned or, if this is not possible, until the date of delivery. An employee exercising the rights to job re-assignment shall retain the rights and benefits of her regular employment. After leave, the employee must be returned to her regular job with the same benefits. Under this act, an employee may also request re-assignment if a medical certificate is presented stating danger to the child the employee is breastfeeding. If this re-assignment is delayed she may stop working until she receives such re-assignment or until the child is weaned. The compensation, based on 90 per cent of the woman’s net earnings is to be paid by La Commission de la sante et de la sécurité du travail (Canadian Women and Job Related Laws, 1981, p. 33; Chenier, 1982, p. 70).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    If early delivery means that the woman has not fulfilled the qualification period for leave, she may not be eligible for leave, let alone pay, and may even be in danger of losing her job. Only British Columbia does not have a qualification period in its labour legislation. See Maternity and Child Care Leave in Canada, 1983, p. 17.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    According to Paoli (1982), the proportion of eligible Swedish fathers taking paternity leave has increased from 2 per cent in 1974 to 11 per cent in 1977.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    There seems to be a stronger relationship between an adherence to a strong ideology of motherhood and poor job prospects in the USSR. Hansson and Lidén (1983), in their book of interviews with thirteen Moscow women, have some interesting quotes on this issue. Results from a survey of Ukrainian women, quoted in Heitlinger (1979, p. 121) showed that women’s attitudes towards extended maternity leaves and part-time work do depend upon the jobs they hold and the qualifications they possess: there was a higher instance of negative responses to the suggested benefits among women with higher qualifications and hence more satisfying jobs.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    A. G. Kharchev, the head of the main Soviet Institute of Sociology, believes that in the past women’s work roles were over-valorised at the expense of their maternal roles and what is now needed is a campaign to change women’s attitudes. I am grateful to Maxine Molyneux for conveying to me the results of her interview with Kharchev during her visit to the USSR in 1982.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Alena Heitlinger 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alena Heitlinger
    • 1
  1. 1.Trent UniversityOntarioCanada

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