Legal context and categories

AuthorDeniz Devrim - Roland Blomeyer - Paul Dalton - Senni Mut-Tracy
Discriminatory Laws Undermining Women’s Rights
violence and discrimination are promoted through advocacy at all levels of government, technical
assistance and capacity building, and active participation by women.
In 2019, UN Women, the African Union, the Commonwealth, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the
Organis ation Internationale de la Francophonie, and the Secr etaría General Ibero-Americana launched a
joint strategy:Equalit y in law for women an d girls by 203 0: A mult i-stakeholder strategy for accelerated
actio n”. An ev aluation to be conducted in 2024 will serve as a basis of repor ting on lessons learned and
pro mising pract ices and will f eed int o var ious pro cesses such a s period ic reviews o f the B PfA, and the High-
level Politica l Fo rum for follow-up a nd rev iew of the 2030 A genda for Su stainable Development.
In March 2020, the int ernational INGO Equality Now, together with UN Women and nine other
organisations from around the world, launched a Global Campaign for Equality in Family Law7. The
camp aign a ims t o help deliver full equa lity fo r women and girls by achieving legal equality in the home. It
will draw at tentio n to t he globa l impact o f discrimina tory fa mily laws co ncerned wit h marriage, divorce,
cust ody of child ren a nd ot her laws t hat a ffect f amily lif e.
At region al level, the Coun cil of Europe’s Gender Equality Strat egy (2018-2023) is com mitted to addressing
discr iminatio n in law. The A frican Unio n’s cam paign to endin g child mar riage includes the adop tion of a
General Comment and a Common Position; the appointm en t of a Special R apporteu r, and the
compendium of t he minimum a ge of mar riage provisions and related exceptions . The E conomic
Community of West African States in its 2015 Abid jan Declara tion on th e Eradication o f Statelessness
commits m ember states to promoting gender-equal nati onality laws . In 2018, th e Le agu e of Ar ab S tates
endors ed a declaration with a call to all member states to enact reforms to uphold gender equal nationality
rights a nd to rem ove reservations t o Article 9 of CEDAW. In the Pacific r egion , the new Pac ific Par tn er ship
to End Violence Against Women and Girls brings together governments, CSOs, and communities to
pro mote eq uality in law f or women a nd girls by 2030. In Latin America and the Car ibbean, the Secretaría
Gener al Iber oamerica na is wor king with UN Women to addr ess discriminatory laws and has explored
examples of refor ms. Within the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie’s strategy adopted in
2018, governments ar e committed to review and modify laws, regu lations, p olicies and p ractices of a
discriminatory nature or effect agains t women and girls. The G7 Gen der E qualit y Adv isor y Cou ncil’s 2 019
report calls on governments to guarantee financing to both eliminate dis criminatory laws and implement
progres sive legislative frameworks.
2 Legal context and categories
Laws can discrim inat e directly or indir ectly. Direct discr imina tion refers to laws t hat are explicitly
discr imina tor y again s t a particular grou p of people; th at is, the d iscriminato ry aspect is clear fro m the words
of the provision or p rovisions in question. Indirect discr imination occu rs where laws are for mally neutral
but in practice have a disproportionately negative impact on a particular group. Ins tances of indirectly
discr imina tor y laws are oft en not ident ified unt il after a la w h as been adopted and the discriminatory
nature of a particular provision becomes apparent in implementation.
For th e purposes of this st udy, we have chosen to focus on the following five legal subject areas :
(i) Laws related to t he enjoyment of civil and polit ical right s;
(ii) Laws r egula ting access to em ployment , economic opport unities a nd finan cial res ources ;
7 Campaign supported by Equali ty Now, UN Women, Musawah, A ct Church of Sweden, Femnet , Muslim for Progressive Values,
Solidarit y for African Women’s Right s, Women’s Learni ng Partne rship and CLADEM. Launch event online at:

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