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

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IMPORTANT: This archived action campaign has been completed or discontinued, and the information contained in it may not be current. Please see Take Action for current and ongoing campaigns.
1 Sep 2004

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. Equality Now’s report, Words and Deeds: Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing + 10 Review Process (PDF, 196KB) contains a representative sampling of laws that explicitly discriminate against women and in doing so fundamentally contradict the commitments made by governments at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Over twenty governments were represented at the launch of the campaign in March 2004 at the United Nations. Many pledged to repeal the laws highlighted; others detailed steps they had taken to eradicate sex discrimination from their legal codes. There have been some developments regarding the laws given in the report, including the following:

Ethiopia: The Ethiopian Parliament has adopted a new Penal Code 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 publicized 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 to welcome the changes that have been made to Article 1. Urge it to complete its reform by amending Article 3 to provide for equal nationality rights for non-Monegasque men and women who marry Monegasque nationals and also to remove the discriminatory structuring of Article 1.

Morocco: Morocco has effected broad legal reform that includes the following amendment to the cited provision:

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 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 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 gender equality. Urge the government to continue this reform, including full 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.

United Kingdom: The wording of Section 85(4) of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 has been amended, although the discrimination remains. Section 85(4) now reads:

Nothing in this Act shall render unlawful an act done for the purpose of ensuring the combat effectiveness of the armed forces.

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