Status of Women
Breadbaking in a Cypriot village
Courtesy Republic of Cyprus, Press and Information Office, Nicosia
Traditional Cypriot wedding
Courtesy Embassy of Cyprus, Washington
Postwar changes greatly affected Greek Cypriot women's
society, especially changes which gave them expanded
education and increased participation in the work force.
beginning of the century, the proportion of girls to boys
in primary education was one to three. By 1943, some 80
girls attended primary school. When, in 1960, elementary
was made compulsory, the two sexes were equally enrolled.
1980s, girls made up 45 percent of those receiving
education. Only after the mid-1960s did women commonly
to receive higher education. In the 1980s, women made up
percent of those studying abroad.
Cyprus had long had a high degree of female
the work force. In the period 1960-85, women's share of
force rose only slightly, from 40.8 percent to 42.2
However, there were great changes in where women worked.
share of the urban work force rose from 22 percent to 41
while their share of the rural work force fell from 51
44.4 percent. The decline in rural areas stemmed from the
shift away from agricultural work, where women's
always been vital, to employment in urban occupations.
Cypriot women enjoyed the same rights to social welfare
in such matters as social security payments, unemployment
compensation, vacation time, and other common social
addition, after 1985 women benefited from special
legislation that provided them with marriage grants and
maternity grants that, paid them 75 percent of their
earnings. Still, a large number of women, the
unpaid family workers on farms, were not covered by the
(see Health and Welfare
, this ch.). These
constituted 28 percent of the economically active female
In 1985 the Republic of Cyprus ratified the United
Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of
against Women. Despite ratification of this agreement, as
1990 there was no legislation in the Republic of Cyprus
guaranteed the right to equal pay for work of equal value,
right of women to the same employment opportunities.
The occupational segregation of the sexes was still
in Cyprus at the beginning of the 1990s. Even though the
participation of women in clerical jobs had more than
the late 1970s, only one woman in fifteen was in an
or managerial position in 1985. Women's share of
increased to 39 percent by the mid-1980s, compared with 36
ten years earlier, but these jobs were concentrated in
teaching, where women had traditionally found employment.
where men were dominant, women's share of professional
amounted to only 11 percent, up from 8 percent in 1976. In
fields where women were dominant, men took just under half
Although most Cypriot women worked outside the home,
expected to fulfill the traditional domestic roles of
mother. They could expect little help from their spouses,
Cypriot men were not ready to accept any domestic duties,
women did not expect them to behave otherwise.
women with full-time jobs were judged by the traditional
of whether they kept a clean house and provided daily hot
Moreover, even at the beginning of the 1990s, Cypriot
were still burdened with the expectation of safeguarding
of the family. According to tradition, a woman's duty was
protect herself against all criticism of sexual immodesty.
carried out in a farming community in the mid-1970s found
women were still expected to avoid any social contact with
could be construed to have a sexual content. An expressed
for male society was seen to reflect poorly on a woman's
virginity was seen by many villagers, both men and women,
to be a
precondition for marriage. The honor of a family, that is,
sense of dignity of its male members, depended on the
modesty and virtue of its women. These traditional
waned somewhat in recent decades, especially in urban
were still prevalent in the early 1990s. Another
indication of the
conservative nature of Greek Cypriot society at the
the 1990s was that the feminist movement in Cyprus was
object of ridicule from both sexes. Nevertheless, women's
increasing economic independence was a force for
liberation in all
sections of the population.
Data as of January 1991