Did you know that in some countries it's actually legal for a man to abduct a woman if he marries her afterwards? And that nine women are currently facing trial because they dared to wear trousers?
Nine Sudanese women have been sentenced to 40 lashes – each – all because they wore trousers. They’re aged between 17 and 23 and are being tried under Sharia (or Islamic) law – even though they’re Christians. And while wearing trousers is normal for Christian women in the country, it falls under ‘indecent dress’ for the Muslim population.
But as human rights activists campaign for the women’s freedom, it’s not the only law that discriminates between the sexes.
It’s been 20 years since 189 countries agreed to a plan to advance women’s rights and achieve gender equality. It was called the Beijing Platform for Action, and the states involved committed to “revoke any remaining laws that discriminate on the basis of sex”.
Sadly, two decades later, this goal has still not been reached. Some progress has been made – more than half of the countries that were called out on their anti-women laws have repealed or partially amended them since the year 2000 – but there is still work to be done.
In an attempt to eradicate sexist legal discrimination once and for all, advocacy group Equality Now has launched its “No more #UnsexyLaws” campaign, with the aim of finally securing a world where all women have equal rights.
‘Justice is the foundation stone for equality and without it, women and girls are enormously disadvantaged politically, economically and socially,’ says Jacqui Hunt, the London director of Equality Now. ‘At a minimum, legal equality gives women and girls a level playing field from which to build their capabilities and make meaningful contributions to society.
‘Not allowing half of the human race to do this is a serious human rights violation, but governments should also be fully aware that without ensuring equality under the law and equality of opportunity, countries will not be able to make significant progress on any level.’
You can join Equality Now’s campaign, targeting 44 countries that have yet to eradicate their anti-women laws, by visiting the website.
Here are ten of the worst anti-women laws that still exist across the world today. You won’t believe them until you read them…
1. Women should be beaten by their husbands
In Pakistan there is currently a wife-beating bill proposed by the Council of Islamic Ideology, stating that a man should be able to ‘lightly beat’ his wife as a form of discipline.The draft details that a husband should be entitled to ‘lightly’ beat his wife if she does one of the following: defies his commands, does not dress up as per her husband’s desires, refuses intercourse or does not take a bath after intercourse/ menstrual periods.
2. Married women can be raped by their husbands
In some countries it’s perfectly legal for a man to rape his wife. Despite the outrage that occured after the horrific gang rape and killing of a young student in Delhi in 2012, India actually added a clause to existing legislation in 2013, allowing a man to rape his wife if she is over 15 years of age. Similarly, in the Bahamas, it’s legal for a husband to sexually assault his wife if she is over the age of 14, while in Singapore she needs to be over 13.
3. Women can be abducted
In Lebanon, any man who commits a kidnapping, rape or statutory rape can’t be prosecuted as long as he marries the victim afterwards. In Malta – a European country, no less – the penalty for abduction is reduced if the perpetrator intends to marry the victim, and the perpetrator is exempt from prosecution and punishment if they do go on to marry the abducted person.
4. Women can be murdered for cheating with minimal repercussions
In Egypt, a man can kill his wife and get off with a far more lenient punishment than is typically given for murder, if he catches her in an act of adultery. The situation is similar in Syria, where a man must only serve up to seven years in prison if he murders his wife, sister, mother or daughter after finding her engaged in an ‘illegitimate’ sexual act.
5. Women can be beaten
In Nigeria, a man can legally assault a woman without facing prosecution if she is his wife and if there is no ‘grievous’ hurt.
6. Women can’t leave the house when they want
A man in Afghanistan can legally restrict his wife’s right to leave the house. The same is true in Yemen, where a wife’s movements outside the marital home can be restricted by her other half.
7. Men choose where women can work
In countries such as Cameroon and Guinea, husbands have control over the jobs that their wives are allowed to do, since a man can ban his wife from having a different trade or profession from him.
8. Women can’t get a divorce
In Israel, marriages and divorces sit under rabbinical law, which states that divorces can only take place if requested by the husband.
9. A woman’s testimony is practically worthless
In Pakistan, the evidence provided by a woman is worth exactly half that of a man in certain civil matters.
10. Women can’t drive
This law is well-known to many: in Saudi Arabia, the Fatwa on Women’s Driving of Automobiles prohibits women from driving and from obtaining a driver’s license.
11. Women don’t inherit as much as their brothers
In Tunisia, women’s inheritance rights are limited: sons inherit twice as much as daughters.
For a full list of anti-women laws, click here.