About the campaign Beijing +20
More than 20 years ago, governments around the world pledged to change or remove their unfair laws and make legal equality a reality. This goal is still far from being met. Equality Now is committed to holding governments accountable for their promises, creating a better world for women and girls.
Equal Laws for a Equal World
A country’s laws set the tone for how it treats its people, and how its people treat each other.
When its laws are unfair - when they discriminate on the basis of sex - cultural inequality and violence against women are legitimised, and become endemic.
In 1995, at the UN’s 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing, governments around the world agreed on a comprehensive plan to achieve global legal equality - the Beijing Platform for Action.
As part of this plan they each pledged to repeal or amend any laws that discriminate on the basis of sex, with the aim of giving every person in the world an equal opportunity to live a safe, happy and fulfilled life.
However, more than 20 years later, this goal is still far from being met.
Which laws are a problem?
There are four broad categories of legal discrimination, each including laws related to:
Marital status - Sex discrimination in marital laws renders women subordinate in many aspects of family relations before, during and after marriage. It also permits girls to be married when they are still children.
Personal status - Sex discrimination in personal status laws negatively impacts the ability of women to conduct various aspects of their daily lives. The discrimination goes beyond family law and marital relations to prohibit rights to confer citizenship, to travel, to participate in public life, etc.
Economic status - Sex discrimination in economic laws restricts women from being economically independent, limiting access to inheritance and property ownership as well as to employment opportunities, thereby reinforcing gender stereotypes.
Violence against women - Sex discrimination in laws purporting to address violence, or silence on the issue within the law, can promote violence against women and girls because there is little to deter perpetrators from committing crimes, and inadequate recourse for victims.
You can explore all relevant discriminatory laws around the world here.
What we are doing about it
Equality Now is committed to holding governments accountable for the promises they made in the Beijing Platform for Action. We do this by monitoring progress towards global legal equality and voicing what still needs to be done.
In our advocacy reports, Words and Deeds – Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing Review Process, published in 1999, 2004, 2010 and 2015, we highlight explicitly discriminatory laws from around the world.
This has helped to achieve real change over the two decades since the establishment of the Beijing Platform for Action, with more than half of the countries named and shamed in our advocacy reports either repealing or fully or partially amending the indicated discriminatory laws.
What you can do to help
Despite the progress so far, there is still a long way to go - many of the discriminatory laws highlighted in our advocacy reports remain in force.
Not only are many countries failing to address problematic laws, some even continue to adopt new ones.
We need your help to put pressure on governments around the globe to remove or change all these unfair laws.
You can email or write to your President or Prime Minister, asking them to review the legislation in your country to repeal or amend all laws that discriminate against women or have a discriminatory impact on women. Our sample letter [link to Sample Letter] can be used as a template, and contact details for your head of state can usually be found online via your government’s official website.
Read our latest advocacy report, published in 2015. This report marked both the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, and the adoption of a new post-2015 development framework to eradicate poverty and to promote global equality.
Explore discriminatory laws around the world using our search tool.