Equality Now is helping create a just world for women and girls
Far too often the potential of women and girls is trampled on by violence and discrimination. One in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, regardless of age, background or country, and every country in the world has laws that treat women and girls as second-class citizens.
For nearly three decades, Equality Now has worked to disrupt the legal systems that make this type of discrimination and violence possible and promote gender equality.
Why the law?
A country’s laws set the tone for how it treats its people, and how its people treat each other.
When laws are not inclusive and legal systems benefit some at the expense of others, then the state creates a tiered system of justice where not all are treated equally.
When women and girls have fewer rights than men and boys, violence is legitimized and discrimination is ignored. While good laws are not sufficient in and of themselves, they are a fundamental component to ensuring an equitable society. Because laws are the building blocks of political, social, and economic life, Equality Now fights to embed gender equality throughout legal systems, focusing on ending sexual violence, sex trafficking, child marriage and female genital mutlilation, and sex discriminatory laws.
Sex discriminatory laws: From bad to worse
With its global partners and network of international supporters, Equality Now has brought public attention to hundreds of sex-discriminatory laws and succesfully advocated for their reform or repeal. Over the years, Equality Now has campaigned against some of the most misogynistic and mind-boggling laws. For instance, up until 2017 Lebanon’s criminal code permitted a rapist to avoid punishment if he married his under-aged victim. So not only would a girl be subjected to violence, but she would now be forced to endure the harmful practice of child marriage, and potentially subjected to a lifetime of domestic and sexual violence.
Wife obedience is no longer mandated in Algeria or the Democtratice Republic of Congo, in Kuwait women now have the right to vote, and in Bolivia and France women are no longer prohibited from working at night.
Despite progress in repealing some of these discriminatory laws, countries around the world still have laws on the books that perpetuate violence and discrimination against women and girls.
Read Equality Now's Words and Deeds report which details examples from around the world of laws that both curtailed women’s economic and financial freedoms as well as confirmed their treatment as inferior to men in the eyes of the law.
Chile’s civil code establishes that the marital partnership is to be headed by the husband, who “shall administer the spouses’ joint property as well as the property owned by his wife.” While Section 103 of the Personal Status Code of 1956 of Tunisia states that “Where there are any sons, the male inherits twice as much as the female.”
Not only are these laws walking, talking human rights violations that prevent women and girls from achieving their full potential, but they are detrimental to the growth of healthy economies and functioning societies. Laws that perpetuate gender inequality hurt everyone, and when societies put gender equality at their core everybody wins.
Where are we now?
Around the world, women and girls disproportionately bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. From increased rates of child marriage and female genital mutilation in India and Kenya to the rise in forced pregnancies in the United States due to constricted access to contraception and abortion.
The pandemic exposed and added to the persisting systematic problem of gender inequality.
Paramount to building back equal must be a commitment from governments and multilateral organizations to prioritize the rights of women and girls. Gender equality must be enshrined into the very foundation of international, regional, and national law so that neither crisis nor political upheaval can erode the ability of all people to live freely, equally, and on their own terms.
As part of their work, Equality Now calls on governments and international institutions to address sexist and outdated laws and legal systems that treat women and girls as second class citizens. As always, their focus is global and they are committed to tackling systemic inequality and promoting structural change.
Strong, inclusive leadership
Equality Now CEO, Yasmeen Hassan, has been celebrated for her work by Forbes in their 50 Over 50 list and was one of only 100 people invited to speak at UN Women's Generation Equality Forum in Paris, where she spoke on behalf of the Global Campaign for Equality in Family Law.
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Equality Now continues to #BreakTheBias by challenging systems, laws and institutions that have failed to protect women and girls and the systems that entrench inequality and permit impunity.
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