Over 1500 people, mostly women, gathered at Þingvellir yesterday to commemorate 90 years of voting rights for Icelandic women, and to shed light on the ongoing struggle for equal rights. Before the ceremony began, 18 white roses were thrown into a pool, in the river Öxará, called Drekkingarhylur. In centuries past, Drekkingarhylur, or Drowning Pool, was used to execute women who had been found guilty of adultery.
Former president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir addressed the guests and said that friendship and mutual respect between the sexes was pivotal in attaining full human rights. She continued by saying that a democracy that excludes women from power was not a fully developed democracy.
The Minister of Social Affairs, Árni Magnússon, announced that his ministry and the Equal Rights Commission had written a letter to companies and institutions in Iceland reminding them of legislation and regulation that govern equal rights. He also said that his main objective was to eliminate the difference in wages that still exists between men and women.
A recent study, by the Bifröst School of Business, shows that male graduates receive 50 per cent higher wages than women. A 2003 survey from the Association of Business and Economics Graduates, reveals that the sex-linked wage difference between its members had increased from 22 per cent the year 2001 to 31 per cent in 2003, in favor of men.
Icelandic women received voting rights on June 19th, 1915, but only those 40 years of age and older. According to an article in Morgunblaðið, the minimum voting age of women was supposed to decrease one year, every subsequent year, which would have given them the same rights as men in the year 1931. However, because of the Commonwealth Agreement between Iceland and Denmark, Iceland was forced to grant women the same status as men in 1920 when women in Denmark received the right to vote.