Discriminatory Laws Undermining Women’s Rights
• What explains succes sful reforms, i.e. t he elimin ation of dis criminatory element s in law?
• What ar e the key obstacles in the path of refo rm?
• What ha s been the performance of the E U’s in str umen ts, in clud ing b es t pra ctice s?
• How can the perfor mance of the EU’s instruments be further enhanced?
Although the focus of this study is on reform of discriminatory laws (i.e. reform of instances of formal
discrimination) rather than on combatting discrimination between men and women in practice
(substantive discrimination), the authors wish to note that the concept of gender equality needs to be
preserv ed in its entirety and that formal and actual gen der equality cannot ultimately be cons id er ed in
isolation from each other. Placing undue emphasis on formal equality of opportunity rather than equality
in pra ctice can risk leading to situations where, for example, s tates do not allocate su fficient resources to
realise subs tantive gender equ ality in practice, on the basis that accessing legal rights and entitlements is
a m att er of a wome n’s in dividu al res ponsibilit y. Fu rthermor e, in or der to alt er t he cond itions t hat pr event
women from reaching subs tantive equality, go vernments may also need t o take active m easures such as
gender mainstrea ming, the implementation of gender quotas or other social policy intervent ions. In
general, we do not address such measur es in this study, except where they are relevant for an
understanding of the operating context in, for example, the coun try case stud ies.
The resear ch method for th is stud y comprises an extensive liter ature review, together with infor mation
gathered from ca. 25 semi-structured int erviews with experts from E U Institution s (DG NEAR, DG DEVCO,
EEAS , EUDs, EP), int erna tion al or ganisatio ns and civ il societ y or ganisatio ns (CSO s).
The firs t step was to identify pro cesses thr ough which legal reforms t ake place thro ugh a compr ehensive
review of relevant stu dies, evaluations and reports . On th e basis o f this review, the m ost pr ominent
pract ices fo r elimin atin g discr imina tor y laws were identif ied and exam ined in gr eater deta il. An over view
of different catego ries in law relevant for ge nder discrimination and of d iscrimina tory laws per
geographical area was es tablished by system atically reviewing the mos t recent policy reports and
academic literature. In addition, recent global developments with respect to discriminatory laws, the
international human rights framework regarding non-discrim ination of women, and international
initia tives to a ccelerat e refor m of discr iminator y laws were studied . Further more, EU po licies an d fina ncing
instru ments to addr ess discrimination in law were as sessed. Th ese findings are a lso reflected upon in t he
four case studies.
One of the challenges in preparing a report of this kind is to provide a balanced overview of the ways in
which the application of the EU’s policy and human rights framework, including EU development
assistance, can contribute to law reform processes in thir d coun tries. Att ribution an d causa tion ar e always
difficult , a nd pa rticula rly s o in dom estic le gislat ive re form proce sses wit h mu ltiple st ake holders involved.
Given t hat aid flows are not br oken down t o specific suppo rt for gend er equality law reform processes, it
is extrem ely difficult to ident ify the relevant EU assist ance in this area . It is th erefore beyo nd the ability of
this st udy to qu antify the precise extent of t he EU’s impact o n specific law reform processes. This could be
the subject of a further study. Instead, drawing on the available literature and on the opinions of experts
and practitioners within the EU institutions and elsewhere, we have reached some general conclusions
about t he value of the various instruments and made recommendations on how the EU’s actions in support
of reform of laws that discriminat e against women can be made more effective in futu re. The European
Commission will publish two external evaluations in 2020 on its work on gender equality and the Gender
Actio n Plan (G AP) which will pr ovide furt her a nalysis of the EU’s impact on the ground.