With reference to two authoritarian or single-party states, each chosen from a different region, evaluate the impact of domestic policies on the status of women.

The status of women and their roles in society have seen varying degrees of evolution throughout the 20th century. This change has been shaped by a multitude of factors, among them the domestic policies of ruling regimes. For the purpose of this essay, we will compare and contrast the impact of domestic policies on the status of women in two contrasting environments: Mao Zedong's Communist China (1949-1976) and Benito Mussolini's Fascist Italy (1922-1943). 

Upon its establishment in 1949, the People's Republic of China under Mao Zedong's rule made extensive efforts to improve the status of women. The Marriage Law of 1950 outlawed the existing feudal practices of arranged marriages, child betrothal, and polygamy. This law allowed women to select their marital partners and instilled a sense of personal autonomy. It was a significant policy reform that symbolised an attempt to break from the country's patriarchal past. Moreover, the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, established in 1954, explicitly stated that women had equal rights to men in all spheres of life: political, economic, cultural, social, and family. In practice, women were encouraged to participate in collective labour and were mobilised en masse during the Great Leap Forward. Historian Patricia Ebrey argues in 'The Cambridge Illustrated History of China' that Mao's policies significantly improved women's social status, as his policy mantra that "women hold up half the sky" resulted in a considerable shift in societal attitudes. However, Ebrey also points out that while women's labour force participation increased, they still bore the brunt of domestic work and childcare, leading to a 'double burden'. Furthermore, women remained underrepresented in positions of political power. 

In contrast, Mussolini's Fascist regime in Italy sought to reinforce traditional gender roles as part of its domestic policies. Fascist propaganda idealised women as mothers and homemakers, and policies were enacted to encourage women to bear children and raise the next generation of 'Italian Fascists'. The 'Battle for Births', launched in 1927, rewarded mothers of large families with benefits and honours, while contraception and abortion were criminalised. Fascist labour policy in Italy also sought to limit women's participation in the workforce, in theory prioritising jobs for men and encouraging women to focus on their roles as wives and mothers. However, economic reality often undermined this policy, and many women continued to work, especially in low-paying jobs and family businesses. Historian Victoria De Grazia, in 'How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922-1945', critiques the Fascist regime's policies towards women. She contends that while Mussolini's policies were aimed at promoting a traditional, patriarchal vision of society, they had limited success in practice and often caused hardship for women. 

The contrasting domestic policies of Mao Zedong's China and Mussolini's Italy highlight the diverse impacts that authoritarian regimes can have on women's status. While Mao's policies sought to raise women's status and encourage their participation in all areas of life, they often fell short in practice and added to women's burdens. Mussolini's policies aimed to reinforce traditional roles for women, but were often at odds with economic realities. Thus, domestic policies, even when explicit, may not necessarily achieve their intended outcomes, due to existing cultural norms and economic conditions. Additionally, the experiences of women in both states illustrate that changes in their legal status may not always result in tangible improvements in their daily lives. The analysis of women's status under these two contrasting regimes underscores the complexity of gender issues and the multifaceted nature of progress. Indeed, in the quest for gender equality, policy reforms are just one aspect; the transformation of deep-rooted societal attitudes remains an ongoing challenge. This essay reinforces the assertion made by historian Gisela Bock in 'Women in European History', that the status of women and their experiences are not merely influenced by who holds power, but more importantly, by how those in power choose to wield it. Therefore, the role of women, their representation and equality, continue to be significant topics of historical and contemporary discourse.