BEIRUT, Lebanon, Nov. 23, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — To prevent gender-based violence and hold offenders to account, a strong and well-implemented legal and policy framework is essential. And yet, in many countries, including in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), women and girls are denied the same legal rights as men and boys. A new policy briefing by Equality Now – Words & Deeds: Holding Governments Accountable to the Beijing +30 Review Process – Sex Discrimination in Violence Laws – highlights laws relating to violence against women and girls, and how violations are being perpetuated due to inequality written within the law, resulting in a lack of deterrents and impunity for perpetrators.
Equality Now has been tracking and reporting on a sampling of explicitly sex-discriminatory laws. For International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25, we are advocating for the immediate amendment or repeal of all sexist legislation.
The WHO estimates 30% of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. This staggering number is exacerbated by inequality, discrimination, and permitted violence found within some laws.
In the MENA, Iraq gives husbands a legal right to punish their wives within certain limits prescribed by law or custom. While Egypt allows a lesser punishment for men who kill their wives on discovering them in an act of adultery.
Rape laws discriminate when they deliberately make exceptions for certain circumstances, such as rape within marriage, or when they allow rapists to avoid criminal prosecution by marrying their victims. Kuwait and Libya are among countries that provide “marry-your-rapist” legal loopholes.
Many countries still have legal definitions of rape based on force, or the threat of force, instead of a lack of consent. Victims often have to prove they physically resisted an attack, and this commonly requires submitting evidence of additional injuries caused by the assailant. Such an approach fails to understand the varied ways that victims respond to rape. It leaves many cases unpunished and fosters a culture of abuse.
Violence against women and girls also occurs online, but there is no universal standard for ending online sexual exploitation and abuse. The patriarchy and misogyny that flourishes in the physical world are being replicated and exacerbated online and laws must address this in the digital realm.
On a positive note, some laws highlighted in our 2020 report have been repealed or amended, or bills are in the works for new or better laws. For example, a law in Syria that completely exempted from punishment men who killed female relatives for “honor” has been repealed, removing the mitigating excuse for crimes of “honor” which sanctioned a much lesser penalty.
Equality Now’s Antonia Kirkland says, “A strong, comprehensive legal and policy framework and environment is essential to protect women and girls from violence. Laws need to be drafted from a universal, intersectional feminist understanding of the power dynamics and inequality that underpin gender-based violence and lack of access to justice for victims.”
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