What is family law?
Family is considered the foundational unit of society and is often associated with closely held beliefs about culture, religion, and tradition. This has made family law among the most intractable areas of legal reform. Attempts to reform family law are often framed by opponents as threats to a group or a culture’s identity and used to justify upholding discriminatory laws and practices. The right to culture and religion are human rights, but they cannot supersede a person’s fundamental right to equality.
Family law refers to a body of statutes, rules and regulations, court procedures, along with customary and uncodified laws and practices, that govern relationships within family units. This includes, but is not limited to, areas of family relations that fall under Article 16 of the CEDAW Convention, including the rights of women and men entering into marriage, divorce, custody, guardianship of children, property rights, and equal rights to inheritance. It also includes the right of a spouse to choose their profession and occupation. Our 2020 report, Words and Deeds: Holding Government Accountable in the Beijing +25 Review Process, put a special focus on the role of family law in achieving gender equality, looking at issues related to marital status, personal status, economic status, and violence.
It is also crucial that laws recognize the diversity of families and promote inclusion and non-discrimination.
Learn more about how discrimination in family laws impacts people around the world, why it’s a feminist issue, and what international law says.
The Global Campaign for Equality in Family Law
The Global Campaign for Equality in Family Law, of which Equality Now is a founding Coordination Committee member, along with UN Women and leading faith-based and regional women’s rights organizations, examines family law as a body of statutes, rules, and regulations, court procedures, and customary and uncodified laws and practices that govern relationships within family units.
The ultimate goal is equality for all women and men under the law in all matters relating to the family, regardless of religion and culture.
How else is Equality Now fighting discrimination in family law?
For three decades, Equality Now has worked to tackle the most difficult problems facing women and girls; challenging ingrained cultural assumptions and calling out inequality wherever we see it. We firmly believe in using the power of the law to ensure equality for women and girls around the world.
- In May 2020, Equality Now’s work was cited by the European Parliament Think Tank’s report, Discriminatory Laws Undermining Women’s Rights, detailing the ways that legal reforms have been undertaken with the aim of accelerating gender equality around the world. This analysis also highlighted the Global Campaign for Equality in Family Law and the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights.
- Since its release in 2020, several of the discriminatory laws we highlighted in our report, Words and Deeds: Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing +25 Review Process, have successfully been amended or repealed.
- Regionally, Equality Now has been working to advocate for equality in family law throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
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