A new law in Iceland that makes it illegal to pay men more than women has come into effect from Monday, 1 January. One of the key reasons the Nordic island has pushed through the law is that nearly half of its parliamentarians are female lawmakers.
As the law is being enforced, both government offices and private business – which employ more than 25 staff – will have to obtain a special government certification on the equal pay policies, failing which, they could be fined.
Although similar provisions are available in places such as Switzerland or the US state of Minnesota, Iceland becomes the first country to make it compulsory.
This is part of Iceland's earlier announcement that the island intends to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022. According to the World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap report, Iceland already has the most gender equity than any other country in the world, a position it has held for nine consecutive years. In the rankings, Iceland is followed by fellow Nordic nations Norway, Finland and Sweden.
At the time of announcing the step in March 2017, Iceland's Equality and Social Affairs Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson said: "Equal rights are human rights. We need to make sure that men and women enjoy equal opportunity in the workplace. It is our responsibility to take every measure to achieve that."
"The gender pay gap is, unfortunately, a fact in the Icelandic labour market and it's time take radical measures; we have the knowledge and the processes to eliminate it," added the minister.
An economy mostly driven by soaring tourism and thriving fisheries, the legislation has found little to no opposition from any corner of the Nordic nation, which already has a law requiring private companies to have at least 40% women on their boards. Iceland also offers equal parental leaves to men and women.
The law found support from all the political parties in the country of about 323,000 people. "The legislation is basically a mechanism that companies and organisations... evaluate every job that's being done, and then they get a certification after they confirm the process if they are paying men and women equally," Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women's Rights Association, told the Al Jazeera as the legislation comes into force.
"It's a mechanism to ensure women and men are being paid equally. We have had legislation saying that pay should be equal for men and women for decades now but we still have a pay gap," she added.
Yet, there have also been concerns that Iceland's reputation being at the forefront of gender equality does not fully translate into equal rights for women since the country faces a high number of cases of sexual assault against women. According to the figures of Eurostat, Iceland has one of Europe's highest per-capita levels of reported rapes.