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More than 25 years ago, governments around the world pledged to change or remove their existing unfair laws and make legal equality a reality. But that goal is far from being realized. Equality Now is committed to holding governments accountable for their promises, creating a better world for women and girls.

A country’s laws set the tone for how it treats its people, and how its people treat each other. Governments must protect women’s and girls’ rights in all spaces and relationships, public or private, married or not.

When laws are unfair – when they discriminate on the basis of sex – cultural inequality and violence against women are legitimized, and become endemic. Attempts to reform family laws are often portrayed as threats to group identity and rights and used as justifications to resist demands for reform.

We are committed to holding governments accountable for changing or removing unfair laws and creating a better world for women and girls.

Explore our latest report, Words and Deeds: Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing +25 Review Process

The Beijing Platform for Action: Equal Laws For An Equal World

In 1995, at the UN’s 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing, governments from around the world agreed on a comprehensive plan to achieve global legal equality, known as the Beijing Platform for Action.

As part of this plan, each government in attendance 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.

More than 25 years later, we are still waiting for many of those laws to be changed.

Which Laws Are A Problem?

While legal discrimination exists in many forms, there are four broad categories of legal discrimination, each including laws related to:

  • Marital Status – Sex discrimination in marital status laws renders women and girls subordinate in many aspects of family relations before, during, and after marriage
  • Personal Status – Sex discrimination in personal status laws negatively impacts the ability of women to conduct various aspects of their daily lives.
  • Economic Status – Sex discrimination in economic status laws restricts women from being economically independent, limiting access to inheritance and property ownership as well as employment opportunities, thereby reinforcing gender stereotypes and roles.
  • Violence – Sex discrimination in laws purporting to address violence, or silence on the issue within the law, can actually promote or perpetuate violence against women and girls because there is little to deter perpetrators from committing crimes or inadequate recourse for victims; intimate partner and sexual violence is disproportionately inflicted upon women and adolescent girls.