Discrimination in law

Words and Deeds: Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing+10 Review Process

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2005 Feb 1

Ten years ago at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, governments pledged in the Beijing Platform for Action to “revoke any remaining laws that discriminate on the basis of sex.” In 1999, Equality Now launched a campaign calling on governments to fulfill this pledge by the time of the 2000 Beijing + 5 review and highlighted a representative sampling of explicitly discriminatory laws in 45 countries in its report Words and Deeds: Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing + 5 Review Process.

What You Can Do: 

Please call urgently on your government to support the creation of a Special Rapporteur on laws that discriminate against women. Continue to write to the governments of countries highlighted in Equality Now’s 2004 updated report Words and Deeds: Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing + 10 Review Process (PDF, 196K). Call on them to ensure that the laws cited, and any other discriminatory laws in force, are repealed or amended, noting the agreed target date of 2005. Call on your own government to undertake a comprehensive review to identify and address any laws with sex discriminatory language or impact. Share the report and your concerns, and the recent developments noted on the reverse side of this page, with the media and the general public to enlist their support in the campaign to hold governments accountable to the commitments they made in Beijing.

Following are developments relating to the laws highlighted in Equality Now's 2004 Beijing+10 report:

Colombia: The Constitutional Court struck down the discriminatory provisions of Article 140(2) of the Civil Code, ruling that disparities in marriage age based on sex were unenforceable in light of Colombia’s international commitments and the principle of equality enshrined in the Constitution. The marriage age, previously 12 for girls, is now 14 for both boys and girls. While Equality Now welcomes the removal of sex discrimination in this provision, it encourages the government of Colombia to institute further reform to raise the marriage age to 18, the age of majority under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Colombia is a party.

Ethiopia: The Ethiopian Parliament adopted a new Penal Code in 2004 that removes the marital exemption from penalty for crimes of abduction and rape. The new Code will come into force once the final text has been signed into law by the President and published in the official gazette.

Monaco: The government has revised Article 1 of Law No. 1155, so that it now provides equivalent rights to Monegasque mothers and fathers to pass their nationality to their children. The amendments were effected, however, by a structure that enumerates specific categories of mothers who could pass on nationality, while preserving to fathers a blanket right to do so. Consequently, while the change is welcome, the law remains facially discriminatory. According to government officials, this differentiation derives from the law regarding acquisition of Monegasque nationality by marriage, including Article 3 of Law No. 1155, which was also highlighted in Equality Now’s full report as discriminatory. Article 3 permits non-Monegasque women to acquire Monegasque nationality in certain circumstances through marriage to Monegasque men, but Monegasque women do not have the equivalent right to pass on their nationality to their non-Monegasque husbands. Please write to the government, welcoming the changes that have been made to Article 1 but calling for the amendment of Article 3 to provide for equal nationality rights for non-Monegasque men and women who marry Monegasque nationals and further revision to remove the discriminatory structure of Article 1.

Morocco: Morocco has effected broad legal reform that includes the following amendment to the provision cited in Equality Now’s report, which had been limited to violence committed by a husband against his wife:

Section 418—A mitigating circumstance obtains in cases of murder, injury or beating committed by one spouse against the other spouse, when either party is caught in flagrante delicto committing an act of infidelity.

While Equality Now welcomes the revision of this law to eliminate explicit discrimination against women, Morocco, together with other governments, committed in the Beijing Platform to “ensure equality and non-discrimination under the law and in practice” (emphasis added). The new law, while gender neutral on its face, may continue to be applied in a way that discriminates against women by mitigating punishment for offenders who are all, or almost all, men who have killed women in so-called “honor” killings. Please write to the government, congratulating it on the several reforms made that provide for sex equality. Urge the government to continue this reform through the repeal of Section 418, which maintains an exemption from punishment for murder that will in practice largely, if not exclusively, be applied to men who murder women.

Republic of Korea: The Constitutional Court ruled Articles 778 and 781 unconstitutional, but these provisions, establishing male primacy in succession to the role of head of family and mandating that children be given their father’s surname, remain in effect pending enactment of substitute laws.

Corrections and Contact Updates

Page 2   Colombia  

The provision should read Article 140 instead of Article 40.
To email President Uribe, go to www.presidencia.gov.co.

     
Page 4   Poland   The Prime Minister of Poland is now Mr. Marek Belka.
     
Page 5   Romania   The President of Romania is now Mr. Traian Basescu. President Basescu's e-mail address is presedinte@presidency.ro.
     
Page 10   Monaco   Article 1 has been modified by the addition of the following paragraphs:
“4. Every person born of a Monegasque mother who acquired Monegasque nationality by naturalization, by reestablishment of nationality, or by application of the provisions of the second paragraph of article 6 or the fourth paragraph of article 7 of this law.
5. Every person born of a mother who acquired Monegasque nationality by declaration following a simple adoption.
6. Every person born in Monaco of unknown parents.
The nationality of a child who has been the object of a legitimating adoption is determined according to the distinctions established in the previous paragraph.”
     
Page 14   Phillippines   To e-mail President Macapagal-Arroyo, go to www.op.gov.ph. See updated fax number below.
     
Page 16   Nepal  

Please contact
His Majesty The King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev
Royal Palace Secretariat
Narayanhity Royal Palace
Kathmandu, Nepal
Phone: +977-1-227576, 227577
Fax: +977-1-228295
The provision in the report should read: “If she [an unmarried daughter] gets married… the property remaining shall go to her successors in accordance with law.”

     
Page 17   Bolivia   The e-mail for President Mesa is despacho@presidencia.gov.bo. No fax number is available.
     
Page 18   Latvia   The Prime Minister of Latvia is now Mr. Aigars Kalv_tis.
The wording of Section 138(6) of the Labour Law has been amended, but remains discriminatory. It now reads: “It is prohibited to employ at night persons who are under 18 years of age, pregnant women and women for a period following childbirth of up to one year, but if a woman is breastfeeding then during the whole period of breastfeeding, if there is a doctor’s opinion that the performance of the relevant work causes a threat to the safety and health of the woman or her child.”
     
Page 19   United Kingdom   Section 85(4) has been amended but remains discriminatory. It now reads: “Nothing in this Act shall render unlawful an act done for the purpose of ensuring the combat effectiveness of the armed forces.”
     
Page 21   Guatemala   The President’s full name is Mr. Oscar Berger Perdomo. President Berger’s email address is presidente@scspr.gob.gt. See updated phone and fax numbers below.
     
Page 22   Uruguay   As of 1 March 2005, the President of Uruguay will be Mr. Tabaré Ramón Vázquez Rosas.
     
Page 22   India   The Prime Minister of India is now Dr. Manmohan Singh. See updated phone and fax numbers below.
     
Page 24   Tonga   Please contact HRH Prince 'Ulukalala Lavaka Ata
Prime Minister’s Office
P.O. Box 62
Nuku’alofa
Tonga
Phone: +676 25 063
Fax: +676 23 888
E-mail: go to www.pmo.gov.to
     
Page 25   Haiti   The interim President of Haiti is Mr. Boniface Alexandre. See updated fax number below.

Updated contact numbers are as follows:

Page 2   Colombia  

Fax: +57-1-337 5890

     
Page 2   Israel   Fax: +972-2-670 5475
     
Page 3   Japan   Prime Minister's Office
1-6-1 Nagata-cho
Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 100-0014
Tel: +81-3-3581 3111
Fax: +81-3-3593 1784
     
Page 10   Kenya   Fax: +254-20-25 02 64
     
Page 14   Philippines   Fax: +63(2) 736-1010
     
Page 15   Lesotho   Fax: +266-22-310 518
     
Page 19   Madagascar   Phone: +261-2022 548 41 Fax: +261-2022-562 09
     
Page 21   Guatemala   Phone: +502-239 0000 Fax: +502-239 0076
     
Page 22   India   Phone: +91-11-2301 2312 Fax: +91-11-2301 9545/2301 6857
     
Page 24   Nigeria   Fax: +234-9-314 6347
     
Page 25   Haiti   Fax: +509-228-2319/228-2320/224-4875
     
Page 27   Iran   Fax: +98-21-646 2774

Words and Deeds: Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing+10 Review Process

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2004 Sep 1

In March 2004, Equality Now launched its Beijing + 10 campaign at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, urging governments to revoke all laws that discriminate against women.

What You Can Do: 

Please continue to write also to the other heads of states of the countries mentioned in the report (note several updates in contact information on the reverse side of this page) and call on them to ensure that the laws mentioned, and any other discriminatory laws in force, are repealed or amended before the agreed target date of 2005. Call on your own government to undertake a comprehensive review to identify and address any laws with sex discriminatory language or impact. Share this report and your concerns with the media and the general public to enlist their support in the campaign to hold governments accountable to the promised made in Beijing.

Corrections and Contact Updates

Page 2   Colombia  

The provision should read Article 140 instead of Article 40.
To email President Uribe, go to www.presidencia.gov.co.

     
Page 4   Poland   The Prime Minister of Poland is now Mr. Marek Belka.
     
Page 16   Nepal   The Prime Minister of Nepal is now Mr. Sher Bahadur Deuba.
     
Page 17   Bolivia   The email for President Mesa is despacho@presidencia.gov.bo.
     
Page 18   Latvia   The Prime Minister of Latvia is now Mr. Indulis Emsis.
     
Page 21   Guatemala   The full name of the President is Oscar Berger Perdomo. An email for the President is not available.
     
Page 22   India   The Prime Minister of India is now Dr. Manmohan Singh.
     
Page 25   Haiti   The interim President of Haiti is H.E. Boniface Alexandre.

Updated contact numbers are as follows:

Page 2   Colombia  

Fax: +57-1-337 5890

     
Page 10   Kenya   Fax: +254-20-25 02 64
     
Page 19   Madagascar   Fax: +261-2022-344 84
     
Page 21   Guatemala   Phone: +502-239 0000 Fax: +502-239 0076
     
Page 22   India   Phone: +91-11-2301 2312 Fax: +91-11-2301 9545/2301 6857
     
Page 24   Nigeria   Fax: +234-9-314 6347
     
Page 27   Iran   Fax: +98-21-646 2774

Words and Deeds: Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing + 5 Review Process

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2000 Jul 1

From June 5 - June 9, 2000, government delegates and NGO representatives from more than 180 countries gathered in New York for a Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly to review implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. In the year prior to the Special Session, Equality Now launched an international campaign calling on governments to honor the commitments made during the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the heads of state listed in Equality Now's campaign report, and/or to their embassies in your country, expressing your disappointment that the discriminatory laws cited in the report were not repealed or amended prior to the Beijing + 5 Special Session. Raise concern that the failure to implement such a fundamental first step in the effort to end discrimination against women suggests a lack of commitment to the spirit of the Platform for Action as well as a lack of accountability to the specific obligations established therein. Express the hope that governments will demonstrate that they do have the political will to make the Beijing + 5 review process a meaningful one by revoking these laws as soon as possible, in accordance with the commitment made in paragraph 102(b) of the Outcome Document.

 

Words and Deeds: Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing + 5 Review Process

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2000 Mar 1

In July 1999 Equality Now issued its Women's Action campaign report highlighting a representative sampling of discriminatory laws currently in force in 45 countries around the world. Equality Now and its campaign partners have since been calling on governments to repeal or amend laws which discriminate against women prior to the Beijing + 5 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly, to be held from 4-9 June 2000.

What You Can Do: 

Please continue writing to the heads of state and their embassies in your country and bring the laws cited in the report to the attention of the media and the general public. You might mention in your letters the above updates and urge governments to accelerate any initiatives underway so that successful efforts can be highlighted at the Beijing + 5 Special Session in June 2000.

Words and Deeds: Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing + 5 Review Process

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
1999 Nov 1

In July 1999, Equality Now issued a Women's Action highlighting a cross-section of laws currently in force in 45 countries which explicitly discriminate against women. The Action calls on governments to repeal or amend these laws before the Beijing + 5 Special Session of the UN General Assembly in June 2000, as a demonstration of commitment to implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. There have been some developments regarding the laws highlighted in the Women's Action campaign report, including the following:

What You Can Do: 

Please continue writing to the heads of state and their embassies in your country listed in the campaign report and bring the laws cited in the report to the attention of the media and the general public. You might mention in your letters the above updates and urge these countries to accelerate any initiatives underway so that their successful efforts can be highlighted at the Beijing + 5 Special Session in June 2000. Note the enclosed corrections and contact updates to the campaign report.

Words and Deeds Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing + 5 Review Process

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
1999 Jul 1

The fundamental right to equality has been affirmed and reaffirmed repeatedly in conferences, treaties, declarations, and other public fora in which governments participate. Nevertheless, discrimination against women in its most blatant forms continues in countries around the world. In September 1995, the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing, and 6,000 delegates from 189 countries participated.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the government heads of state of the countries mentioned in this report. Call on them to ensure that the laws cited, and any other discriminatory laws in force, are repealed or amended before the Beijing + 5 Special Session of the UN General Assembly in June 2000 so that at the Special Session these reforms can be highlighted as a show of genuine commitment to (rather than disregard for) the words and spirit of the Platform for Action. Share this report and the concerns outlined above with the media and the general public, to enlist their support in this campaign to hold governments accountable to the promises of the Beijing Platform for Action. You may also wish to highlight and let us know about other discriminatory laws in your country and efforts underway to change them.

Trinidad and Tobago: The Imminent Execution of a Battered Woman's Defenders

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2000 Jul 1

Pamela RamjattanOn May 29, 1995, Indravani (Pamela) Ramjattan, Denny Baptiste and Haniff Hilaire were convicted of the murder of Ramjattan's husband, Alexander Jordan, and were sentenced to death by the Trinidad and Tobago Courts. Jordan's death marked an end to the savage beatings and brutal rapes endured by Pamela since the age of 17, when she had been sent to live with him against her will.

What You Can Do: 

Please send urgent appeals directly to the President, the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and the Minister of National Security, calling for clemency on behalf of Denny Baptiste and Haniff Hilaire. Note the background of domestic violence in this case and that Ramjattan's sentence was overturned and reduced on appeal, based on this evidence. Note that Mr. Baptiste and Mr. Hilaire were attempting to rescue her from her husband's violence and that this fact should have been considered in their trials and sentencing. Cite the fundamental right to equal protection of the law, as well as the right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It is important that action be taken on an urgent basis, as the government of Trinidad and Tobago could execute these men at any time. You may also want to urge the authorities to reduce Ramjattan's sentence to time served, as she has already spent eight years in prison, four and a half of them on death row. In addition to the authorities listed below, contact your own governments and request their urgent intervention to save the lives of Denny Baptiste and Haniff Hilaire. Please also bring the case to the attention of the media.

The President
The Hon.Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson
Circular Road, St. Ann's
Port of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 624-1261/64
Fax: (868) 625-7950

The Prime Minister
The Hon. Basdeo Panday
Level 15, Central Bank Towers
Eric Williams Plaza, Independence Square
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 623-3653/5
Fax: (868) 627-4285

The Minister for National Security
Senator Brigadier The Hon. Joseph Theodore
Knox Street, Port of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 623-2441/5
Fax: (868) 627-8044

The Attorney General
The Hon. Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj
Winsure Building
24-28 Richmond Street, Port of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 623-2010/625-8901/623-4873
Fax: (868) 625-6530

Those of you who would like to make a contribution to "The Ramjattan Family Appeal" can send checks or money orders made out to "The Ramjattan Family Appeal," c/o Joanne Cross, Herbert Smith Solicitors, Exchange House, Primrose Street, London EC2A 2HS, United Kingdom. All funds raised will go towards a house for Pamela and her children as well as clothes, furniture, school books.

Trinidad and Tobago: The Imminent Execution of A Battered Woman and Her Defenders

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
1998 Oct 1

When she was 17 years old, Indravani Pamela Ramjattan, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, was sent against her will by her parents to live with Alexander Jordan. From the beginning her new husband was extremely violent. He beat her, he raped her, and he threatened to shoot her. Every time Pamela tried to run away, Alexander Jordan found her and forced her to return. He had friends among the local police who visited him at his home and saw Pamela with bruises but did nothing.

What You Can Do: 

Please send urgent appeals directly to the President, the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and the Minister of National Security, calling for clemency on behalf of Pamela Ramjattan, Denny Baptiste and Haniff Hillaire. Note the background of domestic violence in this case and the failure of the legal system to even consider these mitigating circumstances. Note the many cases in which husbands who battered their wives to death are serving prison sentences, suggesting that the state treats those who kill in the course of inflicting domestic violence with much greater lenience than those who kill in the course of trying to stop domestic violence. Cite the fundamental human right to equal protection of the law, as well as the right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In addition to the authorities listed below, contact your own governments and request their urgent intervention in this case. Please also bring the case to the attention of the media.

The President
The Hon.Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson
Circular Road, St. Ann's
Port of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 624-1261/64
Fax: (868) 625-7950

The Prime Minister
The Hon. Basdeo Panday
Level 15, Central Bank Towers
Eric Williams Plaza, Independence Square
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 623-3653/5
Fax: (868) 627-3444

The Minister for National Security
Senator Brigadier The Hon. Joseph Theodore
Knox Street, Port of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 623-2441/5
Fax: (868) 627-8044

The Attorney General
The Hon. Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj
Winsure Building
24-28 Richmond Street, Port of Spain
Trinidad and Tobago
Tel: (868) 623-2010/625-8901/623-4873
Fax: (868) 624-3109

Success in Nepal: The Decriminalization of Abortion

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2002 Nov 1

A new law easing the blanket prohibition on abortion in Nepal was finally passed by the Lower House of Parliament in Nepal and came into force on 26 September 2002, after the Country Code (11th Amendment) Bill was given royal assent. This new legislation is a success resulting from many years of campaigning by women's rights activists in Nepal with support from around the world.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the officials listed below, congratulating them on the passage of the Country Code (11th Amendment) Act, and asking that they use their good offices to effect the release from jail of all women who have been imprisoned for abortion. Ask also that provision be made in the country for better access to healthcare, including education on reproductive health. Letters should be addressed to:

His Majesty The King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev
Royal Palace Secretariat
Narayanhity Royal Palace
Kathmandu, Nepal
Telephone: +977-1-227576, 227577
Fax: +977-1-228295

The Right Honorable Lokendra Bahadur Chand
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
Singha Durbar
Kathmandu, Nepal
Telephone: +977-1-228555, 227955
Fax: +977-1-227286

Nepal: Maternal Mortality and The Criminalization of Abortion—The Death of Bimla

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
1998 May 1

BimlaThe 20-year-old Nepali woman in this picture is shown with her husband and two daughters, aged one and three years old. Shortly after this picture was taken, Bimla became pregnant again. Harassed by her in-laws, who feared that Bimla would have yet another daughter when they wanted a grandson, Bimla sought an abortion. The "back street" abortionist she found inserted two capsules in her vagina. The next day, after painful contractions, Bimla started bleeding.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Chairman of the Law Reform Commission, and to the other government officials named below. Express concern that the anti-abortion laws in Nepal have led to such a high maternal mortality rate and that many deaths might have been averted if safe and legal abortion had been available. Cite the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, held in 1995 in Beijing, which urged governments in its Platform for Action "to deal with the health impact of unsafe abortion as a major public health concern" and to consider "reviewing laws containing punitive measures against women who have undergone illegal abortions." Note also the recent WHO finding that anti-abortion laws kill women—they do not necessarily prevent abortions. Express support for efforts to amend the law on abortion, while noting concern over the provision requiring the husband's consent and the exclusion of unmarried women. Urge that the draft amendment be revised to address these concerns and passed into law as quickly as possible, in the interest of saving lives. Letters should be addressed to:

Chairman, Human Rights Committee
Parliament
Singh Darbar
Kathmandu, Nepal

Secretary
Parliament
Singh Darbar
Kathmandu, Nepal

Secretary
Ministry of Law
Babar Mahal
Kathmandu, Nepal

Secretary
Ministry of Women and Social Welfare
Social Welfare Building, Lainchaur
Kathmandu, Nepal

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