The Global Laws Which Show Just How Far Gender Equality Has Come In 20 Years


In 1995 at the World Conference on Women in Beijing, Hillary Clinton gave her famous speech which has been quoted time and time again: “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights” she said.

Twenty years later, you’d think the world would be a completely different place in terms of gender equality and progress, right? Well, not so fast. Back in 1995, 189 countries signed the pledge that would incorporate greater gender equality in their penal codes by revoking any discriminatory laws.

It turns out many of the countries have forgotten, or clearly did not prioritize ending discrimination against women. Who has been holding them accountable all these years? The United Nations does a good job, and the media has certainly played its part in increasing awareness about crimes against gender, especially with the rise of the new wave of feminism over the past couple of years.

One organization in particular is stepping things up a notch and taking certain countries to task. Equality Now, a global non profit existing to end violence and discrimination against girls and women, has launched a campaign against 44 governments for their discriminatory laws.

They released a report called ‘Ending Sex Discrimination in the Law‘ and accompanied the worldwide campaign with the hashtag #UNsexylaws.

This isn’t the first report of its kind from Equality Now. They have been releasing keeping tabs on the pledge countries since 1999, and while certain strides are being made around the world, the question remains: it is enough in 20 years?

The Daily Beast made a list of countries that still have ridiculous legislation disproportionately affecting women and children, effectively rendering them oppressed in some manner.


In India, Singapore and the Bahamas, married women are basically allowed to be raped because it isn’t even considered rape since they are married. Charming!

In Malta and Lebanon, it’s cool for a man to abduct a girl, as long as he marries her he is free from being convicted. In Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Peru and Uruguay similar laws have been overthrown.

Lookout Nigerian wives! A husband is allowed to beat his wife for the purpose of “correcting” her, as is a school master with a student.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen, the law states that a woman must obey her husband meaning she is not equal to a man.

In Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, girls only given half the inheritance of that of a boy.

In Egypt and Syria it was previously legal for a man to murder his wife if she was caught cheating. But in 2009 the law was changed where a man would now go to prison for no more than 7 years.

Many of the laws in certain countries are tied into religious beliefs which dominate legislation. For instance in Israel, under rabbinical law a woman is not permitted to divorce her husband, but if HE wants to divorce HER, that is cool with them.

In Iran, the judicial system reinforces that women are of half the value of a man with the law that outlines for every male witness in a court case there must be double the amount of female witnesses.

But it’s not all bad news, there are countries which have fought hard for equality to make women’s rights a standard part of civil life.

equality-now-progress equality-now-progress

“Governments must turn words into deeds and finally repeal or amend all laws that discriminate on the basis of sex so the next generation of women and girls can enjoy their rights and live as equal partners in society. Without good laws women and girls have no formal recourse to protect and promote their rights and cannot fully participate in society. Legal equality is also essential to meeting internationally agreed upon development goals for the greater inclusion and prosperity of all peoples,” writes Equality Now about their campaign.

One of the key things they have focused on over the past year, as have many other organizations, is ending child marriage and allowing girls in under-developed countries the chance at an education.

It is both disheartening and encouraging to see the two lists above, but it shows that progress is possible. We stand in solidarity with all the organizations around the world working hard to change the world for future generations, and we also hold in high regard the men and women who protest and speak up, often risking their lives, in the hope that their message will impact key decision-makers in their government and legislature. You can read more about the Equality Now campaign here and take action in support.


One Comment

  1. Pingback: UN Women Asked Artists To Create Cartoons Depicting Gender Equality. Here Are The Results

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