CONTACT: Tara Carey, Equality Now Media Relations Manager firstname.lastname@example.org, M: +44 (0)7971 556 340 W: +44 (0)20 7304 6902
In 'The World's Shame - the Global Rape Epidemic: How Laws Around the World are Failing to Protect Women and Girls from Sexual Violence' Equality Now has looked at laws to protect women and girls against sexual violence in 82 jurisdictions within 73 UN member states and Palestine.
Equality Now aims to show a general picture of rape laws in the legal systems surveyed and has used the UN Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women as the benchmark by which to measure these laws.
Despite some positive developments, our research has found that gender discrimination remains widespread and there are numerous examples where women and girls are denied the same legal rights as men and boys. In addition, some laws are poorly conceived and so fail to protect or promote the rights of those who have been subjected to sexual attack.
There are also circumstances in which decent laws exist but aren’t being well implemented. Having strong laws in place is crucial but to it is also vitally important that they are correctly applied to ensure that victims get the positive legal outcome they deserve.
Bad laws prevent victims from gaining access to justice, and can enable perpetrators of sexual violence to avoid appropriate punishment.
Equality Now concludes that there is still much that needs to be done to guarantee that adequate laws are enacted, developed and enforced.
To help bring about much needed legal change, we are launching a petition calling on equality to be made a reality, to be delivered to all governments before the June 2017 UN Human Rights Council meeting. We are asking them to take a comprehensive look at their laws relating to rape, sexual violence and abuse, and to amend the following:
- Laws allowing the perpetrator to walk free on reaching some form of “settlement”, including by marrying the victim
- Laws framed in terms of morality rather than bodily integrity, thereby perpetuating a cycle of violence and discrimination
- Laws that explicitly permit rape in marriage, even of children
- Laws permitting judicial discretion to reduce charges or define evidence based on stereotyped assessment of the complainant’s behaviour
- Laws that fail to recognise true consent is impossible in situations of dependency or extreme vulnerability
- Laws or practices inhibiting investigation or prosecution of sexual assault
- Laws requiring witness corroboration and other overly burdensome evidence
Antonia Kirkland, Legal Equality Program Manager and author of the report, said:
"Most countries are signatories to key international human rights conventions and have constitutions that guarantee equality on the basis of sex. This means that governments should be doing all they can to stop sexual violence, and there should be no legal barriers preventing women and girls from accessing justice through the criminal court system if their rights are violated. While there has been some progress, the discriminatory rape laws highlighted in Equality Now’s report demonstrate how governments around the world often view women as second class citizens, and still have work to do to live up to their commitments.”
Yasmeen Hassan, Global Executive Director of Equality Now, said:
“Unless governments fix their laws on rape and sexual assault and implement them effectively and sensitively, we are unlikely to see an end to the worldwide abuse of women and girls anytime soon.”