6 ways to help make equality reality in the family
Gender equality in the family is the key to achieving gender equality across society. We must all redouble our efforts to make equality reality in our families, and around the world.
1. End laws that mean mothers lose custody of their children when they remarry
Laws that give preferential right of custody or guardianship over children to the father over the mother discriminate against women and are based on a sex stereotype that views men as superior to women. These laws also limit a mother’s ability to make decisions about the upbringing of her own child.
For example, Article 125 of Lebanon’s Personal Status Law of the Catholic Sects, 1949 provides that a mother loses custody of her child upon re-marriage while the same restriction does not apply to the father.
2. End exceptions for laws that allow girls to be forced into marriage
When young girls are forced to marry, they face potentially lifelong harmful consequences. They are essentially subject to state-sanctioned rape and are at risk of increased domestic violence, forced pregnancy, and negative health consequences while being denied education and economic opportunity.
For example, Sections 17 and 34 of Zambia’s Marriage Act exempt all marriages under any African customary law from the minimum age of marriage requirements (normally 21 years) under the law. There is no minimum age of consent to marry under Zambian customary law as current customary practice allows any girl who attains puberty to get married.
3. End discriminatory nationality laws
Nationality laws that prevent a woman from passing on citizenship to their foreign spouse on an equal basis with men make families insecure and can result in severe hardships for the family. In addition, the loss of a woman’s nationality on divorce can lead to problems such as statelessness.
For example, Articles 5, 12 and 23 of Ordinance No. 78-34 of 7 September of the Togolese Nationality Code do not allow a Togolese woman to transfer her nationality to her foreign spouse on an equal basis with Togolese men and remove Togolese nationality from a naturalized Togolese woman if she is divorced from her Togolese husband.
4. Value and encourage both parents’ contribution to childcare equally
Unequal parental leave laws assume that the responsibility of childcare falls on women and may end up inhibiting women’s full economic participation.
For example, Switzerland’s Federal Law supplementing the Swiss Civil Code of 30 March 1911 provides that women are entitled to 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, but there is no requirement to provide paternity leave for men.
UPDATE: Switzerland voted in a referendum on 27 September 2020 which resulted in the approval of 10 days of paternity leave to begin in January 2021. We welcome the news and encourage the government to continue to review the issue and consider additional paid paternity leave so that all parents are treated equally.
The President of Switzerland replying to our letter encouraging further reform also stated that,
"In addition, the Government is elaborating a national strategy for equality between women and men. Finally, the Government will undertake a general review of inequalities between women and men in Swiss federal law.”
5. End laws that allow men to beat their wives with impunity
Laws that allow men to “punish” or “correct” their wives sanction violence within the law itself and may perpetuate or promote intimate partner violence against women and girls.
For example, Article 41 of the Iraqi Penal Code No. 111 of 1969 gives a husband a legal right to punish his wife within certain limits prescribed by law or custom.
6. Ensure equality in domestic and emotional labor
During the current lockdown many countries are experiencing, many women are taking on the majority of the domestic and emotional labor in households, on top of any paid work they may be doing. If you are safe with whoever you are locked down with, make sure that everyone is taking on their fair share of the emotional and domestic labor.