Progress - Equality Now


There has been progress in removing legal discrimination against women. Equality Now is pleased to report that more than half of the countries highlighted in our previous reports have either repealed or fully or partially amended the indicated discriminatory laws. Among these countries are:

Countries –Legal provision repealed or amended since 2000

Global –In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (“Agenda 2030”), a new development framework which calls on all governments to “[e]nsure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard.” (Target 10.3)

Algeria –Wife obedience is no longer mandated

Argentina –A sexual abuser is no longer exempt from punishment by agreeing a settlement with the victim

Australia, Switzerland –Women are now allowed to apply for all jobs in the army

Bahamas –Women now have equal inheritance rights to men

Bangladesh, Kenya –Women can now pass citizenship to their children on the same basis as men

Bolivia, France –Women are no longer prohibited from working at night

Colombia, Mexico, Romania, Turkey –The minimum ages of marriage for males and females are now the same

Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Peru, Uruguay –A rapist can no longer avoid punishment by marrying the victim

Haiti, Jordan, Morocco
There is no longer an exemption from penalty for men who murder their wives and/or female relatives in certain circumstances

India*, Malaysia**, Papua New Guinea, Serbia and Montenegro, Tonga –Marital rape is now a crime

Iraq –Women can now obtain a passport without having to get approval from a male guardian or a husband

Kuwait –Women now have the right to vote

Latvia –Women are no longer prohibited from working overtime and travelling for work during pregnancy and one year after childbirth

Lesotho –Property can now be registered in the name of women married in community property

Mexico –Women are no longer prohibited from remarrying for a specified time after divorce or widowhood

Kenya, Monaco, Venezuela –Women can now pass their nationality to their foreign spouse on the same basis as men

Nepal –Certain restrictions on women’s property rights have now been lifted

Pakistan –Discriminatory evidentiary standards applied to proving rape under the Zina Ordinance have been removed

Poland –Women are no longer restricted from passing their surname to their children

Republic of Korea, Turkey –Men are no longer designated as head of the family

Swaziland –A woman married in community of property can now register property in her own name

* Although India’s domestic violence law of 2006 gives women the option to bring a civil case for marital rape, India continues to exempt marital rape from its criminal law.
** Malaysia added a new provision in 2007 to the Penal Code which criminalizes a husband who "causes hurt or fear of death or hurt to his wife" in order to have sex with her, which is a positive step toward addressing marital rape. However, it did not delete the exception for "sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife" in the provision on rape and does not criminalize the act of rape itself committed by a man against his wife. This does not afford women full protection against marital rape.




On 25 March 2018, the President’s decision to repeal Article 308 by Executive Order was published in the Palestinian Official Gazette. This is a great step towards equality and securing the dignity and rights of women and girls.

In advance of International Women’s Day and the Prime Minister’s announcement of the Cabinet’s proposal for the repeal of Article 308, Equality Now’s partner, Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC) organized a seminar with civil society organizations calling on the Government of Palestine to respect and enforce Article 9 of the Basic law 2003 that guarantees full equality between men and women in all spheres of life. This would include repealing Article 308 of the Penal Code.

In October 2017, WCLAC, Equality Now, and the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations against Domestic Violence against Women (Al Muntada) submitted a joint report on Palestine for consideration during the 68th session of UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (the CEDAW Committee), highlighting various discriminatory provisions in the Family Status law and the Penal Code, including Article 308. In its replies to the Committee, in February 2018, Palestine stated that it was working on repealing Article 308 among other articles in the Penal Code.


On 11 October, 2017, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that part of the Indian Penal Code which excused marital rape of minors between the ages of 15-18, was unconstitutional.  Going forward, a man will be considered guilty of rape if he has intercourse with a wife who is under the age of 18. However, the exception for marital rape of adult women remains - please continue to take action [link to: Action - Repeal sex discriminatory laws of India] by calling on the Indian government to ensure justice for all rape victims!


On 26 September 2017, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued an order to lift the ban on women driving, which was announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world that forbid women from getting driver's licenses and driving, under the "reasoning" that it would lead to "vice and taboo acts." Driving licenses were issued to women from June 2018, although Equality Now remains concerned about discriminatory implementation. Currently women can expect to pay much more than men for their lessons, and can access fewer driving schools.

Lifting the ban is an important step, but the sex discriminatory male guardianship system remains in full effect. For example, women are still unable to travel without male permission, apply for a passport, or choose when and whom to marry. And the implementation of the May 2017 royal order to give women access to state services, e.g. opening a bank account or filing a lawsuit, remains unclear. These oppressive "personal status" regulations and policies continue to violate women's human rights and prevent them from moving freely in their daily lives.


On 16 August, 2017 Lebanon's parliament voted for the full repeal of Article 522 of the Penal Code. Going forward rapists and other sexual abusers who marry their victims will no longer enjoy impunity for their crimes. The full repeal follows the December 2016 decision by Lebanon’s parliamentary Administration and Justice Committee to revoke the law. We are coordinating with our partners to make sure that no other gaps in protecting women and girls' rights to be free from sexual violence remain in the law.


On 12 June 2017, the US Supreme Court handed down a ruling in Sessions v. Morales-Santana (formerly Lynch v. Morales-Santana) to address the sex discrimination in the Immigration and Nationality Act. Going forward, unmarried American fathers and mothers will have the same residency requirements in order to pass on citizenship to their children born abroad, although the new length of the residency is still to be determined by Congress. Previously, fathers had to satisfy a longer residency time period than mothers, which the court found unconstitutional. Written by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, this decision is consistent with international law and jurisprudence, which Equality Now and our global partners highlighted in our ‘friend of the court (amici curiae) brief’ . While it is unfortunate that the sex discriminatory financial support requirement for a father remains as a condition for him giving his citizenship to a child born abroad and out of wedlock (not an issue in Session v. Morales-Santana), overall, the ruling represents real progress for both women and men in the movement for gender equality.

From the decision: "At the time §1409 was enacted as part of the Nationality Act of 1940 (1940 Act), two once habitual, but now untenable, assumptions pervaded the Nation’s citizenship laws and underpinned judicial and administrative rulings: In marriage, husband is dominant, wife subordinate; unwed mother is the sole guardian of a nonmarital child."


On 26 January 2016, the Irish government’s Department of Justice and Equality announced that fathers will now be entitled to two weeks of paid paternity leave starting in September 2016. Previously fathers only received benefits if the mother died within a certain time period after giving birth. We welcome the news and encourage the government to continue to review the issue and consider additional paid paternity leave so that parents are treated equally.


In December 2015, the Supreme Court of Japan ruled unconstitutional Article 733 of the Civil Code, which requires women to wait six months before re-marrying. However, the ruling left open the possibility of the government merely instituting a shorter waiting period, which would still be discriminatory.


In March 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recommended that Kenya , “[r]epeal all provisions in family laws, including the Marriage Act (2014), that discriminate against women and have a negative impact on their children, such as those that authorize polygamy.” This followed Equality Now’s joint submission to the CRC with partner Rural Education and Economic Enhancement Project (REEP) – Kenya, which noted the harmful effects of this new law on women and girls.


In a March 2016 decision, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) called on Russia to amend its sex discriminatory labor law and regulations following a case where a woman was denied employment as a boat driver because it was one of 456 jobs that Russian women are banned from holding.


On 8 July 2016, the High Court of Tanzania took steps to end child marriage for Tanzanian girls. In its decision, the Court ruled that Sections 13 and 17 of the Law of Marriage Act were unconstitutional and directed the government to change the law within one year so that the minimum age of marriage for girls is also 18 years -- the same as for Tanzanian boys.


In July 2015, the Ambassador of Togo to the United Nations informed Equality Now that a bill giving women the equal right with men to transfer their nationality to their children and spouses was being written. While this is welcome news, we are also encouraging Togo to conduct a full review of the nationality law to reaffirm that naturalized Togolese women will not lose their nationality in cases of divorce. Due to conflicting language in the law (Article 23 of the nationality law vs Article 149 of the 2012 Code of Persons and the Family), confusion remains on this point.


In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (“Agenda 2030”), a new development framework which calls on all governments to “[e]nsure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard.” (Target 10.3)