Numerous laws that discriminate against women continue to exist around the world, expressing in concrete terms formal government policy towards women. Governments that allow discriminatory laws to remain in force in this way endorse and promote inequality and deny women recourse when they face discrimination that affects all aspects of their lives including security, bodily integrity, family life, community status, and political, economic and social prospects.
Twelve years ago at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, governments pledged in the Beijing Platform for Action to "revoke any remaining laws that discriminate on the basis of sex." In 2000, the Special Session of the General Assembly convened to review the Platform for Action established a target date of 2005 for revocation of all discriminatory laws. It is now two years past the target date and many governments are still failing to implement their promises to ensure equality under the law for men and women. Thirty-two of the fifty-three countries highlighted in Equality Now's reports since 1999 on discriminatory laws around the world have not amended or repealed the discriminatory laws highlighted. (See Words and Deeds: Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing + 10 Review Process (PDF, 196K).) There are many more that exist around the world.
A mechanism is urgently needed to carry forward the process of eliminating legalized discrimination against women. In March 2005, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) convened for a ten-year review of the commitments made in the Beijing Platform for Action, pledged to undertake further action to ensure the full and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. A resolution was introduced by the Rwandan and Philippine Governments and co-sponsored by Angola, Argentina, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Gabon, Iceland, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, and Zambia calling for the consideration of the advisability of the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on laws that discriminate against women . Such a Special Rapporteur would allow the CSW to highlight ways in which Member States have used law reform effectively to counter discrimination against women and would be able to engage in a dialogue with States regarding laws that discriminate against women and support ongoing efforts to revoke these laws. S/he could also promote exchange of information among Member States on issues of common concern. The Special Rapporteur's work could draw from and build on the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (the CEDAW Committee) to strengthen mechanisms supporting women's rights at the United Nations.
Following consultation with member states, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the CEDAW Committee on the advisability of appointing a Special Rapporteur, the UN Secretary-General issued his report to CSW concluding that "[a] dedicated mechanism that would tackle [discriminatory] laws as its primary and exclusive concern, rather than as incidental to a broader mandate, from a global perspective could provide the necessary momentum for change that has so far been absent." However, a Special Rapporteur was not appointed at the 2006 session of the CSW. Instead, a resolution was passed, introduced by the Rwandan and Slovenian Governments and co-sponsored by the governments of Argentina, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Republic of Korea and Tanzania, calling for further consideration of the establishment of a Special Rapporteur bearing in mind existing United Nations mechanisms with a view to avoiding duplication.
In his second report, which expands on the view reflected in his 2006 report, the Secretary-General addresses the relationship between a new mechanism and the reform discussions within the United Nations. He suggests that "timely action in the Commission on the Status of Women on the creation of such a position and its mandate would also facilitate the ongoing review by the Human Rights Council of the special procedures...[and]...would allow the Council to take into consideration such a new mandate and its relationship with the Council and existing mechanisms."
In his in-depth study on violence against women published in July 2006, the UN Secretary-General emphasized that "violence against women is both a cause and a consequence of discrimination against women and of their inequality and subordination...Securing gender equality...must not be treated as optional or marginal." The report concluded that a "stronger, more consistent and visible leadership role by intergovernmental bodies and the entities of the United Nations system is necessary." It calls explicitly for States to "remove all laws that discriminate against women; review and revise all State policies and practices to ensure that they do not discriminate against women; and ensure that provisions of multiple legal systems...comply with international human rights standards, including the principle of non-discrimination." Governments must move from words to action. There have been significant legal reforms in some countries, but violence and discrimination against women continue. A Special Rapporteur could accelerate the pace of change and help make legal equality for women a reality.
Please call on your government's foreign ministry to support the creation by the CSW of a Special Rapporteur on laws that discriminate against women. Thank your government if it is a co-sponsor of the resolutions passed and ask that it maintain its leadership role in promoting this mechanism at the CSW and among other governments to accelerate reform of legal discrimination against women. Continue also to write to the governments of countries highlighted in 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. Ask your own justice ministry to undertake a comprehensive review to identify and address any laws with sex discriminatory language or impact. Share your concerns and this Update with the media and the general public to enlist their support in the campaign to eliminate laws that discriminate against women.
Corrections and Contact Updates
The Prime Minister of Israel is now Mr. Ehud Olmert. See updated fax number below.
The Prime Minister of Japan is now Mr. Shinzo Abe. The contact information is:
Prime Minister's Office
|Page 5||Poland||The Prime Minister of Poland is now Mr. Jaroslaw Kaczynski. See updated telephone number below.|
The President of Romania is now Mr. Traian Basescu. The contact information for President Basescu is:
|Page 8||Tanzania||The President of Tanzania is now Mr. Jakaya Kikwete. See updated telephone number below..|
The Head of State of Bangladesh is now Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, Honorable Chief Advisor. The updated mailing address is:
Office of the Chief Advisor
|Page 10||Kenya||The email for President Kibaki is firstname.lastname@example.org .|
Article 1 has been modified by the addition of the following paragraphs:
The Head of State of Monaco is now Prince Albert II. The email for Prince Albert II is email@example.com . See updated fax number below.
|Page 13||Pakistan||To email President Musharraf, go to www.presidentofpakistan.gov.pk/WTPresidentMessage.aspx |
|Page 13||Saudi Arabia||
The King of Saudi Arabia is now King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. The mailing address is:
No email is available.
|Page 14||Philippines||To email President Macapagal-Arroyo, go to www.op.gov.ph/contact.asp . See updated fax number below.|
The President of Chile is now Ms. Michelle Bachelet Jeri. To email President Bachelet, go to www.presidencyofchile.cl/view/viewRegistraUsuario.asp 
See updated fax and telephone numbers below.
|Page 17||Bolivia||The President of Bolivia is now Mr. Evo Morales. The email for President Morales is firstname.lastname@example.org . See updated fax number below.|
|Page 17||Cameroon||The email for President Biya is email@example.com .|
The Prime Minister of Latvia is now Mr. Aigars Kalvitis.
See updated telephone and fax numbers below.
|Page 19||Madagascar||The Prime Minister of Madagascar is now Mr. Charles Rabemananjara. See updated telephone and fax numbers below.|
|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.” To send an email to Prime Minister Blair, go to: http://www.pm.gov.uk/output/Page821.asp |
|Page 24||Nigeria||The email for President Obasanjo is firstname.lastname@example.org |
|Page 25||Haiti||The President of Haiti is now Mr. Rene Preval. See updated fax number below.|
|Page 27||Iran||The President of Iran is now Mr. Mahmud Ahmadinejad. The contact information is: Presidency Office Pasteur Avenue, Postal Box 1423-13185 Tehran 13168-43311, IRAN Tel: +98-21-64451 Fax: +98-21-6646 2774 Email: email@example.com |
Updated contact numbers are as follows:
Tel: +213-21-68 2292
|Page 3||Israel||Fax: +972-2-651 3955|
|Page 4||Mali||Fax: +223-223-0026/ 223-1715|
|Page 5||Poland||Tel: +48-22-841 3832/694 6983|
|Page 5||Romania||Tel: +40-21-410 0581|
|Page 7||Sudan||President’s Palace
PO Box 281
No fax number or email address is available.
|Page 8||Tanzania||Tel: +255-22 211 6539|
|Page 8||Yemen||Tel: +967-1-208 934/402 2983
Fax: +967-127 4147
|Page 10||Kenya||Fax: +254-20-25 02 64|
|Page 10||Monaco||Fax: +377 92 16 02 22|
|Page 14||Philippines||Fax: +63-2-736 1010|
|Page 15||Chile||Tel: +56-2-690 4361
Fax: +56-2-690 4077
|Page 15||Lesotho||Fax: +266-22 320 662|
|Page 17||Bolivia||Fax: +591-22-11 32 04|
|Page 19||Latvia||Tel: +371-708 2800
Fax: +371-728 0469
|Page 19||Madagascar||Tel: +261-2-022 331 16/650 10
No fax number is available.
|Page 22||Lebanon||Tel: +961-1-866 301
Fax: +961-5-920 472
|Page 24||Nigeria||No fax number is available.|
|Page 25||Haiti||Fax: +509-224 4875/228 2319/228 2320|