Meryl Streep To Join Equality Now In Demanding Government Accountability For Laws That Discriminate Against Women

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Fifteen Years After The Beijing Conference, Countries Have Made Some Headway In Changing Discriminatory Laws But Progress Has Been Slow And Uneven

Media Advisory
1 March 2010
Contact: Lakshmi Anantnarayan

Meryl Streep will join Equality Now, the French and Kenyan governments and leading international women’s rights activists at a press conference in the United Nations to highlight governments’ progress made in revoking laws that discriminate against women over the last fifteen years, since the Beijing Conference. At the press conference Equality Now will launch its Beijing + 15 campaign urging governments to revoke any remaining sex discriminatory laws, release its new report Words and Deeds: Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing +15 Review Process, and call on governments to appoint a special mechanism on equality before the law.

The press conference will be followed by a special performance of “Women Can’t Wait!” written and performed by Tony-award winner Sarah Jones in which she plays different characters of women from around the world whose lives are directly affected by discriminatory laws. The performance, jointly organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Equality Now, will be held from 1.15 – 2.30 pm, in the UN Secretariat Building, and will be opened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  The press conference and event will also be webcast live at

Equality Now has been examining discriminatory laws around the world for over a decade and has issued the latest of its three reports, which highlights such laws in 36 countries from all geographic regions with regard to marital, economic, personal status and violence against women. Through the course of this campaign, more than half of the 52 laws highlighted have been repealed or amended.

Meryl Streep (Member of Equality Now Advisory Council)
Cécile Sportis (Representative of French Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Hon. Esther Murugi Mathenge (Kenyan Minister of Gender)
Taina Bien-Aimé (Executive Director, Equality Now)
Sapana Pradhan-Malla (Equality Now Board Member - Asia)

Friday, March 5, 2010 at 11.00 am

Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium, United Nations Headquarters, Enter via Visitors Entrance at 46th Street and First Avenue.
(Journalists without UN press accreditation should refer to the website of the Media and Accreditation Liaison Unit for details: or call +1 (212) 963-6934)

In 1995, at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, governments specifically pledged, among other promises, to revoke all laws that discriminate against women. In 2000, at the five year review of the Beijing Conference, governments established a target date for the amendment or repeal of these laws by 2005, a deadline long past. As Equality Now’s report Words and Deeds: Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing +15 Review Process illustrates, countries around the world regardless of geo-political status continue to discriminate against women and girls by maintaining inequality before the law. Women are subjected to state-sanctioned violence in many countries because laws condone practices like “honor” killings, marital rape and domestic violence. In several countries laws are a severe impediment to women’s independence because they restrict women’s property, movement, employment and citizenship rights. 

Taina Bien-Aimé Executive Director notes, "Changing the law is just the first step towards addressing violence and discrimination against women; however, women have no recourse to justice if laws remain discriminatory. While a number of governments make gradual progress toward the repeal of discriminatory laws, there are others that affirmatively deny women equality before the law. Governments have made promises they are not keeping and instead must speed up the march toward sex equality if they are truly concerned with the economic and social development of their countries.”

March 1, 2010 - 12:30