Here are three ways you can be a part of Equality Now's Make Equality Reality birthday celebrations:
- Throw a virtual birthday party! You can create a Facebook fundraiser or a Crowdrise page, hold an Instagram or Facebook Live event with a donate button directly on your stream!
- Give the gift of gender equality - ask your friends and family to forgo an in-person gift in exchange for a donation to Equality Now, or make a donation in honor of a loved one’s birthday you missed during quarantine.
- Wear your feminism with pride, add one of our Equality Now shirts from our Teemill store to your birthday wishlist!
Throwing a virtual party?
Gabby, our fundraising extraordinaire, shares her top tips:
- Set a goal and share it with your guests. Seeing the progress of accomplishing a goal (and supporting a good cause!) will encourage your guests to participate and make them feel like part of your team.
- Encourage your guests to donate before, during, and after. We can help you set up and manage your fundraising efforts.
- Invite your colleagues, friends, and family. Everyone can learn more about how to make equality a reality for women and girls around the world!
- Don’t forget to take pictures to share with us via email or on social, tag them with #MakeEqualityReality! We are always inspired to see our supporters in action.
Any questions? Email Gabby at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 girl’s 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 right 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.
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.
Equality Now can work with your team to develop a promotion or ongoing partnership that:
- Inspires your existing network
- Reaches new audiences
- Is tailored to your brand, goals, location(s) and values
- Creates social media and PR talking points
- Makes a real difference to the lives of women and girls globally
Our Corporate Partnerships Team is experienced in developing relationships with organizations of all sizes including large corporations and household brands.
Our approach is focused around building partnerships that maximize mutual benefit: Raising vital funding for women and girls, and helping you meet your goals within social responsibility, customer or employee engagement, sales, and PR.
Together, we can amplify a message that connects your customers and employees to the transformative change they are making: a positive change for every woman and girl, everywhere.
To talk to our Partnerships Team, please contact Rob Cartwright on email@example.com
Since 2000, there has been great progress around the world to remove legal discrimination against women. More than half of the countries highlighted in our previous four reports have repealed in full, or completely or partially amended the discriminatory laws highlighted in our work. Below is a look at just some of the improvements we have seen.
What progress has been made on marital status?
- Algeria, Democratic Republic of Congo: Wife obedience is no longer mandated.
- Colombia, Japan, Mexico, Romania, Turkey: The minimum age of marriage for males and females is now the same.
- Democratic Republic of Congo: The husband no longer has the right to manage his wife property and the wife can appear in civil court without the husband's authorization.
- Guinea: The husband no longer has the right to determine place of residence, or to object to the separate profession of his wife.
- Nicaragua, Republic of Korea, Turkey: Men are no longer designated as head of the family.
- Mexico: Women are no longer prohibited from marrying for a specified time after divorce or widowhood.
What progress has been made on personal status?
- Bangladesh, Kenya: Women can now pass citizenship to their children on the same basis as men.
- Iraq: Women can now obtain a passport without having to get approval from a male guardian or a husband.
- Kenya, Monaco, Venezuela: Women can now pass their nationality to their foreign spouse on the same basis as men.
- Kuwait: Women now have the right to vote.
- Pakistan: Discriminatory evidentiary standards applied to proving rape under the Zina Ordinance have been removed.
- Saudi Arabia: Women now have the right to drive but as of October 2019, women's rights activists who fought for this right were still imprisoned and women can still be arrested for being "absent" from the home (taghayoubi).
- United States of America: Unmarried American fathers and mothers will have the same residency requirements in order to pass on citizenship to their children born abroad.
What progress has been made on economic status?
- Australia, Switzerland, United Kingdom: Women are now allowed to apply for all jobs in the army.
- Bahamas: Women now have equal inheritance rights to men.
- Bolivia, France: Women are no longer prohibited from working at night.
- Latvia: Women are no longer prohibited from working overtime and traveling for work during pregnancy and one year after childbirth.
- Lesotho: Property can now be registered in the name of women married in community property.
- Nepal: Certain restrictions on women's property rights have now been lifted.
- eSwatini (formerly Swaziland): A woman married in community of property can now register property in her own name.
- Poland: Women are no longer restricted from passing their surname to their children.
What progress has been made on violence?
- Argentina: A sexual abuser is no longer exempt from punishment by agreeing to a settlement with the victim.
- Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Lebanon, Palestine, Peru, Uruguay: A rapist can no longer avoid punishment by marrying the victim.
- India*, Malaysia**, Papua New Guinea, Serbia and Montenegro, Singapore, Tonga: Marital rape is now a crime.
- Haiti, Jordan, Morocco: There is no longer an exemption from penalty for men who murder their wives and/or female relatives in certain circumstances.
- Malta: A perpetrator is no longer exempt from punishment by marrying the victim that he has abducted.
* 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.
What is the problem?
UN Secretary General António Guterres concluded, in his review of achievements against the objectives on the Beijing Platform for Action to date, that, “[t]he persistence of gender stereotypes and discrimination in the media remains one of the major overall challenges to women’s empowerment and gender equality. Of particular concern to a broad range of governments are the persistent, degrading, discriminatory, objectified and hyper-sexualized representations of women and girls within the media, with a growing trend of misogynistic and violent images, including in social media, gaming, and pornography. Easier access to these images through the Internet and mobile phones affects healthy social and emotional development, especially for youth, who are forming perceptions around sexuality, intimacy, and relationships”.
Who is making the news?
A UNESCO report containing data on women in the news media from 59 countries and 522 news media organizations found that women make up 35% of the total media workforce across the world, but only hold 27% of the jobs in top management and 26% of governance positions. Men, therefore, make up the significant majority of opinion formers in the world in terms of what gets reported and how.
The Beijing Platform for Action
Strategic objective J.2. of the Beijing Platform for Action, signed by 189 governments in 1995, is to “promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media”.
Governments committed among other things to:
- Encourage the media to refrain from presenting women as inferior beings and exploiting them as sexual objects and commodities, rather than presenting them as creative human beings, key actors and contributors to and beneficiaries of the process of development
- Promote the concept that the sexist stereotypes displayed in the media are discriminatory, degrading and offensive
- Take effective measures or institute such measures, including appropriate legislation against pornography and the projection of violence against women and children in the media
The media were encouraged to:
- Develop, consistent with freedom of expression, professional guidelines, and codes of conduct and other forms of self-regulation to promote the presentation of non-stereotyped images of women
- Establish, consistent with freedom of expression, professional guidelines, and codes of conduct that address violent, degrading or pornographic materials concerning women in the media, including advertising
- Develop a gender perspective on all issues of concern to communities, consumers and civil society
Misrepresentation and inaccurate reporting
A free press is essential to the functioning of a fair, equal and accountable society. The free speech of women and their consequent access to justice is, however, impeded when reporting is inaccurate, intrusive and misrepresents the context of violence against women and girls. As noted by the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) coalition in the UK, “[s]uch reporting on violence against women has both an immediate and a cumulative effect. It says to individual perpetrators that there is some justification for assaults on women. Over time it incrementally and subtly informs the way the whole community perceives certain crimes and whether in fact, it is then possible to get justice for them.
Rape myths for example – such as that ‘real rape’ is committed by a stranger with a weapon and is sometimes ‘provoked’ by women who are dressed in a certain manner or have had too much to drink - feed everyone’s view on who is seen as a ‘real’ victim, who is a perpetrator and consequently which cases are prosecuted and achieve a conviction, even which cases are ever reported in the first place.
Editors’ codes for the press and broadcast media should set clear, professional standards that promote equality, non-discrimination and respect for all people.
Various NGOs, including Zero Tolerance, Gender Links and Women’s Media Center have guides and research that can aid good media reporting. UNESCO is also coordinating a Global Alliance on Media and Gender to promote gender equality in and through the media globally. Such initiatives need to be supported as a way also of fostering an environment of zero tolerance to sexual violence.
Wherever it takes place, FGM is rooted in gender inequality and often seeks to control female sexuality.
But where exactly IS it happening?
Take the quiz: Where are women and girls at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)?
This may include laws regarding:
- human trafficking
- sexual offenses
- child protection
- sexual violence
- technology and communication
- maritime business and offenses
- tourism, etc,
as well as gender and sex discriminatory laws that increase vulnerability and policies related to social welfare and the reduction of gendered socio-economic vulnerability.
Legal principles to ending sexual exploitation
Ending sexual exploitation requires a comprehensive human rights and gender equality based approach, which takes into account that vulnerability arises from systemic inequality and seeks to address it.
Sexual exploitation can often mean that people are caught in cycles of sexual violence and assault. It is critical to implement legal safeguards for those who are exploited, ensuring they are protected from harm and are never criminalized.
Laws and policies must aim to achieve substantive equality by:
- Addressing vulnerability through equality in the law
- Resourcing a strong social welfare state
- Ensuring accountability for those are responsible for or are enabling exploiters to continue to act with impunity, e.g. child protection in schools or and tech companies protecting vulnerable users.
- Ensuring accountability for those who would sexually harass, abuse, assault or exploit
- Providing holistic support for people who are exploited or abused, including opportunities to recover
Taken collectively, these policies function to greatly reduce one’s vulnerability to being groomed, trafficked or otherwise sexually exploited, including commercially to meet one’s basic needs.
In addition to reducing vulnerabilities, there must be accountability for those who would sexually harass, abuse, assault or exploit. The #MeToo movement is a particularly potent example of the global call for accountability around issues of violence against women. Among the legislative approaches to increase accountability are laws that require positive sexual consent (meaning sex must be voluntary) and penalize those that would use their position of power - including socio-economic power - to obtain sex acts, whether it be in exchange for a promotion or money.
Recognizing that sexual exploitation may nevertheless occur - particularly among migrant women and other marginalized groups that may be in situations of heightened vulnerability, support must always be freely accessible and independent of immigration status.
International human rights law
International human rights law protects a person’s right to be free from exploitation. These treaties and standards include:
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
- the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
- the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol)
- the Convention on the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others
- the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
- the Beijing Platform for Action
By ratifying international human rights treaties, States commit to putting in place national legislation compatible with their treaty obligations and duties. To fulfill their human rights obligations, States must take positive action to enable people to realize those rights.
Learn more about:
Want to join the conversation to end sexual exploitation?
Anonymity, as well as very limited regulation, enables exploiters to easily come into contact with potential victims. The increasing use of social media has also allowed for more opportunities for people to come into contact with offenders and has enabled offenders to anonymously interact with an increasing number of potential victims. Not only has the pool of potential victims expanded exponentially, so too has the pool of potential opportunistic offenders.
This is a global and growing problem.
In many countries, legislation, law enforcement, and awareness have failed to keep up with the negative impacts of the internet and the challenges it brings. In others, the threat has not yet been prioritized or there are limited resources to invest in infrastructure or safeguards to protect children and vulnerable adults online.
This is a global problem that requires harmonized responses from the international community. Whilst some tools exist to combat this issue, they often focus on child sexual abuse images and are not used to combat other forms of online sexual exploitation or trafficking. This leaves a gap in prevention, particularly for adolescent girls. Online sexual exploitation cannot be combated in national silos, it is a global concern requiring a global solution, supported by strong interconnected national response mechanisms.
The global response must overcome many challenges. For instance, any website, whether a large multinational company, one set up specifically to facilitate exploitation or any other platform, may use servers located across legal jurisdictions. Another challenge is ensuring privacy and freedom of expression are protected while balancing the need for regulation that protects vulnerable people from exploitation.
The sheer scale of exploitation online, and it’s continuing growth, can sometimes feel insurmountable. We must not lose hope. Technology can also be used for good. There are excellent tools such as Microsoft’s photoDNA, Spotlight, and AI technology that exist to combat this issue. Organizations like Thorn exist to harness the potential of technology to end child sexual exploitation. We must do all we can to encourage innovation and accelerate tech developments to tackle exploitation.
Civil society, governments, and technology companies and platforms must work together to develop both policy and practical solutions. Only with their input and support can a solution be found.
What is Equality Now doing about this?
- We engage with international networks and platforms which are building a coordinated and cooperative global response to the growing challenge of online sexual exploitation, including developing effective legal, policy and technological solutions.
- We apply a gendered lens to research and understanding of the misuse of tech to facilitate sexual exploitation
- We advocate for a global convention or common international regulations highlighting the responsibility and accountability of all actors involved in the trafficking chain.
Technological and legal solutions cannot work in silos. Online sex trafficking is a global problem and requires cooperation and coordination among governments, tech companies, civil society, and survivors.
We're committed to working together on this. Want to be part of it?
Why is this a feminist issue?
“If I’m a black woman, I have some disadvantages because I’m a woman and some disadvantages because I’m black. But I also have some disadvantages specifically because I’m [a] black woman, which neither black men nor white women have to deal with. That’s intersectionality; race, gender, and every other way to be disadvantaged interact with each other.”
- Kimberlé Crenshaw
Women and girls face systemic inequality and discrimination which often stems from inequality in the law. Their experiences are determined by intersectionalities including, but not limited to:
- interactions with the criminal justice system
- mental, intellectual and/or physical capacity
- nationality/citizenship status
- social class
- socioeconomic status
Equality Now recognizes:
- the struggle of all marginalized genders against the patriarchy and discrimination, and for equality and human rights.
- the patriarchal gender binaries that create systemic barriers to resources, opportunity, services, and respect for women and girls cause and exacerbate the same barriers for LGBTQ+ individuals, manifesting as homophobia and discrimination
- socioeconomic status, typically defined by a combination of one’s financial income, level of education, occupation, and access to property and resources, affects an individual’s opportunities and outcomes. The intersection of socioeconomic status and gender discrimination leaves girls and women most affected. For example, according to a 2017 Oxfam report, globally women earn 24 percent less than men. Women are also less likely to be in paid work in the first place. This gendered poverty is not limited to developing countries. In the UK following prolonged policies of austerity by the government, the Women’s Budget Group together with the Runnymede Trust found that tax and benefit changes have hit the poorest hardest, women harder than men, and black and ethnic minority women hardest of all.
- citizenship status, and specifically statelessness, can create systemic and social barriers that keep women and girls from thriving and realizing their rights. Lack of citizenship can also increase girls’ and women’s vulnerability to human rights abuses, forced marriage, and commercial sexual exploitation.
- discriminatory immigration policies and inefficient systems place migrant women and girls at a higher risk of certain types of violence and exploitation than their male counterparts. Migrant women’s and girls’ experiences of racism, sexual violence, unsafe working conditions, and gender-based violence are often directly related to or exacerbated by their immigration status and their lack of rights or access to justice.
- racism, and the racist underpinnings of laws, policies, and systems, change the way marginalized racial communities experience the world.
- practicing a religion or belonging to a religious group can cause or exacerbate specific types of discrimination against women and girls.
- the caste system affects and oppresses women and girls since they face intersectional discrimination both from society and while accessing the justice system.
- people may experience specific disadvantages due to the intersection of age with other aspects of their identity, including their gender.
- women and girls with disabilities may be more vulnerable to poverty and social exclusion and often have limited social, political and economic opportunities and lack of access to basic services. They may also be at greater risk of sexual and physical violence and abuse. Girls with disabilities often experience discrimination, for example in accessing education and enjoying family life.
- interactions with the criminal justice system can leave people more vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
Equality Now believes that everyone should be able to live safe, fearless and free and enjoy sexual freedom.
Such freedom means the freedom from having to rely on sex for survival, especially sex that puts you at risk of violence or even death. It means the freedom to make welcome choices, free from any exploitation or coercion that is driven by inequality. We also believe that women should be able to freely participate in consensual sexual relations in a way that enhances their pleasure and self-esteem. This includes freedom from repressive and stereotyping norms about female sexuality.
What is Equality Now doing to address vulnerabilities to sexual exploitation?
- We advocate for laws and policies that address the intersecting vulnerabilities faced by women and girls and other marginalized genders, particularly those that leave them more likely to live in poverty.
- We hold governments accountable for their part in failing to end poverty and therefore facilitating vulnerability to sexual exploitation.
- We advocate that governments consider all law, policymaking, and budgeting through a gender equality and anti-poverty lens from the start.
- We stand in solidarity with expert organizations that advocate for the human rights of all people marginalized by patriarchal structures.
- We advocate for laws that criminalize all forms of sexual acts that are not based on consent and voluntary participation, including rape, in line with international human rights standards.
Learn more about:
Want to join the conversation to end sexual exploitation?
What is FGM?
FGM is often rationalized as a rite of passage into womanhood. In reality it is an extreme form of violence used to control women and girls’ sexuality.
It has serious and far reaching consequences on the health, psychological, and emotional well being of women and girls. It denies women and girls the full enjoyment of their rights and liberties, takes away their right to bodily autonomy, causes lifelong health problems, increased maternal and infant mortality during childbirth, psychological trauma and even death.
How prevalent is FGM in Burkina Faso?
According to UNICEF, 76 percent of women in Burkina Faso aged 15-49 have undergone FGM. The majority of the girls undergo FGM before the age of five, with prevalence ranging from 22 percent to 87 percent depending on ethnicity.
The main reasons for performing FGM include social acceptance, preserving virginity, better marriage prospects as well as religious reasons even though FGM has not been cited in any religious texts.
Is FGM against the law in Burkina Faso?
Yes. In November 1996, the parliament passed a law outlawing FGM in Burkina Faso.
The law was amended in 2018 – 2019 to provide stiffer penalties. Article 380 of the Penal Code defines and criminalizes FGM while Articles 381 and 382 provide penalties for FGM including FGM carried out by a medical practitioner.
The Ministry of Education has committed to integrate teaching the consequences of FGM into formal and informal education curriculum.
In 2016, the parliament further adopted the 2016 - 2020 ‘National Strategic Plan of the Permanent Secretariat of the National Council for the fight against the Practice of Excision’ (Le Comite National de Lutte Contre la Pratique de l’Excision) a blue print used in the implementation of anti-FGM efforts.
Why is FGM still affecting girls in Burkina Faso?
While Burkina Faso has strongly enforced their anti-FGM law, cross-border FGM remains a challenge. Citizens often cross the border to countries where anti-FGM laws do not exist or where such laws are weakly enforced.
Burkina Faso borders Niger, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Benin which have laws against FGM. It also borders Mali, which has a prevalence of over 90%, and does not have an anti-FGM law.
How can we end FGM in Burkina Faso?
Equality Now is calling on:
- The government to ensure that women and girls are fully protected from FGM;
- The judiciary to uphold the current sentencing law on the perpetrators;
- The government to increase budgetary allocation to support the enforcement of the anti-FGM law;
- The government to ensure accountability across all law-enforcement structures in order to accelerate implementation of the anti-FGM law; and
- The government to ensure capacity-building of institutions responsible for the implementation of the anti-FGM law.