Gender bias is a preference or prejudice toward one gender over the other. Bias can be conscious or unconscious, and may manifest in many ways, both subtle and obvious. In many countries, eliminating such preferences is the basis of many laws, including those that govern workplaces, family courts, and even the voting booth. Despite these efforts, many legal and political scholars argue that total gender parity remains a far off goal, one which many regions are not remotely close to reaching.
It is possble for gender bias to be subtle or overt, and it can have a range of consequences. For instance, the biased assumption that girl's school sports are less important than boy's school sports lead to an inequality in funding and access to facilities, which in turn lead in part to the creation of the Title IX section of the Equal Opportunity in Education Act of 1972, a United States law prohibiting gender discrimination in public education, including in sports.
The legality of this bias is an area of huge contention in regard to pay equity between the sexes. Historically, in many countries, men make more money over a career than women, even if they hold the same job. While the disparity has decreased since the mid-20th century, it still exists in most areas to some degree. Opponents of additional laws increasing protection of women's equal pay argue that this may be due to women working less over their lives, instead making a choice to remain at home and raise children. Women's rights activists often cite this argument as part of the overall gender bias of modern society, suggesting that women are financially punished for choosing to rear children, despite the fact that this action is vital to the continuance of the state.
It is important to note that gender bias exists in both directions. Although many historical examples and evidence suggest that bias has typically gone against women, there are certainly cases to the contrary. Abortion legality, for instance, is often a situation where bias claims against men are suggested, as some biological fathers insist they should have the right to prevent an abortion in order to raise their biological children.
It is also important for people to remember that not all regions approve or desire gender equality under the law. In some countries, women are not allowed to drive, let alone vote. Studies of some regions have also showed tremendous bias in their laws, with women being subject to severe penalties — including execution — for crimes such as adultery, whereas for men, adultery may not be considered a crime at all or may have lighter sentencing guides.
In other parts of the world, the complexity of gender issues and overall desire to create an equitable society has led legal systems with an interest in eliminating bias to institute laws prohibiting overt gender prejudice. The first law allowing women voting rights was passed in New Zealand in 1893, although earlier laws existed in Scandinavia that allowed limited female voting. England, the United States, and Ireland all have laws prohibiting pay inequity based on gender, although these are not always strictly enforced.