Shortly after Feminist ideology started gaining popularity in the mid-19th and early 20th century in the UK and US and slowly the rest of the world, the movement begun affecting changes to the social and political life of Greece, and in 1952, Greek women gained the right to vote. However, other changes did not come until a few decades later, as with, for example, the introduction of sweeping changes in family law that introduced legal equality between spouses and abolished the practice of dowry among other things.
In the larger cities of Greece, such as Athens, women have a more integrated role in society and the community; however, in the rural areas of Greece a strongly expressed patriarchal society still flourishes. One of the underlying ideas that fuel this structure is that women are “naturally” associated with the domestic area of the workforce, which carries a smaller weight than the larger workforce that men are typically involved in. Assumptions like these have been standard in rural Greek families for centuries.
Traditionally, the domestic arena was where a Greek woman's responsibility was. Whether they were dealing with household chores or cooking for the family, Greek women efficiently carried out their duties in the home. The house was such an important factor in the life of a Greek woman, that people often compared the cleanliness of the living space to the character of the woman that inhabited it. Rural areas in particular have been very conservative on gender roles. According to Mills, the traditional perception of women in rural Greece is that a woman’s time outside the house is a potential threat to the family’s honor. This perception stems from a fundamental Greek belief that a man’s honor relied heavily upon the purity and modesty of his wife, sister, and daughters.
In regards to reproduction, the future and size of a family has been traditionally seen as dependent on the wishes of the husband. In a countrywide study by Yannis Tauntas et al., the majority of women in Greece felt that contraception was the responsibility of the man. Placing the responsibility of family planning in the man’s hands is largely due to a view of passive sexuality in which Greek women refer to themselves as “becoming impregnated, without taking part in the process.” Within the home, the woman is responsible for raising and nurturing the children while her husband is at work. This falls within the realm of her domestic duties in the home. One piece of control that women often control is the finances. Although many women do not have jobs within the formal work sector, they still budget and govern the income.
Traditionally, domestic violence was considered a largely private issue, but in the past decades the views have changed. In 2006, Greece enacted Law 3500/2006 -"For combating domestic violence"- which criminalized domestic violence, including marital rape. Greece also ratified in 2009 the Lanzarote Convention, the first international treaty that addresses child sexual abuse that occurs within the home or family.
According to data by UNICEF, 52% of the Greek population is made up of women. However, in 2003 only 32.4% of the workforce consisted of women. In addition, in 2001, Greece had the second largest gender employment gap of the European Union. Of the women that have jobs within the formal sector, most of them live in large urban cities. Within the rural areas of Greece, women have found it particularly difficult to receive jobs in any area other than farm work. The low number of women that have jobs in rural communities could partially be due to the high levels of sexual harassment that they face on the job site. Another explanation for low involvement in the workforce is that adequate laws protecting women from sexual violence were not enacted until 1984.
Although the percentage of women in the workplace is quite low, the presumptions and attitudes towards what entails a job that are what make this statistic unsettling. As previously stated, in rural communities there are much fewer women in the workforce; however, many of these women have full-time jobs. Because a woman’s time outside of the home setting is limited, many women have found that renting rooms within their house or setting up an in house hotel can generate a sufficient income. These rural community women can also earn an income as house cleaners, seamstresses, or by running tourist shops. These jobs are extensions of a woman’s domestic work and can be easily balanced while carrying out the daily duties within the home. Ironically, their side occupations can earn a greater income than the money that is generated from the man’s job. However, in small countryside societies like Kokkari, Greece, women’s work is not considered “real” labor and thus has less symbolic value than a man’s job. While this is a generalization that is widespread in smaller town societies, it is outdated in larger metropolises.
In the 21st century, Greece has also addressed several other problems that women face in the workplace. For example, in response to the EU Directive 2002/73/EC, Greece enacted Law 3488/2006 against discrimination in employment and occupation, on the basis of sex or marital status, and against sexual harassment.
Religious life is considered a fundamental aspect of life for a significant portion of the Greek population. According to a 2005 poll, 81% of Greeks believed that there is a God. This percentage made Greece the third highest-ranking country in the European Union for this poll. Additionally, the Greek Orthodox faith is recognized as the dominant religion in Greek society. In both urban and rural communities, women play an active role in Greek religion and in general women are more avid churchgoers than men. The idea of women being more dedicated to their attendance at church is seen across the Mediterranean.
Despite women’s consistency in attending church, tradition (not the official church) restricts women due to their unique physiological processes. The tradition that a woman is not allowed to enter the church during her menstrual cycle or for forty days after she has given birth is observed only among elderly women. During these times, women are known to stand outside of the church and listen to the message. Traditionally, women occupied the left side of the nave of the Church and men the right side. This tradition is fast disappearing; easily noted if one attends Greek Orthodox Church services today.
For many countries, including Greece, the idea of women in politics was until recently a controversial topic. Although Greece is known for being the “birthplace of democracy,” the entering of women into the political arena has been very slow. Because of this weak representation of women in politics, Greece traditionally ranked at the bottom of the list for women’s involvement in the government. Greek women’s limited participation in politics suggests that the stereotype of women being better suited for a domestic environment is still widespread in both rural and urban communities. However, women have made strides within the past few years, and in the 2004 election a woman named Prof. Helen Louri was appointed as Senior Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister. In recent years, the proportion of women in politics has increased rapidly, and as of 2014 there were 21.0% women in parliament.
The following list contains Greece’s National Women’s Organizations:Panhellenic Women’s Movement
International Association for Feminist Economics: Greece
Political Union of Women
Greek Women’s Association
League of Women Scholars
Federation of Women of Greece
Association of Greek Women in Legal Professions
European Forum of Leftwing Feminists –the Greek Chapter
Association of Greek Homemakers
Progressive Women’s Organization
Democratic Women’s Movement
League of Women Entrepreneurs and Professionals of Athens