In just a few weeks, people around the world will be celebrating International Women’s Day.
This day marks a time for reflection on the sexism that still exists across the globe, while also celebrating the amazing strides that women have made in combating the inequality they face.
Nowhere in the world do women have the same opportunities as men, and in many countries, women’s rights and opportunities are limited by law.
So, what has been accomplished since last year? On the surface, it may appear that not much progress has been made, seeing as gender discriminatory laws of all sorts still exist around the world.
But over the past year women around the world have set change in motion, advocating for the reform of laws in some countries and sparking legal battles in others.
Here is a recap of the laws brought to light last year, as well as the work being done to fight back:
1. Women can be kidnapped
In Malta, a man can receive a reduced sentence for kidnapping if he intends to marry the victim. If the man marries his victim after the abduction, he will be exempt from prosecution and punishment.
While Malta continues to enforce laws which protect abductors, other countries have taken action to amend their laws. Both Lebanon and Tunisia used to exempt rapists and kidnappers from prosecution if they married the victim, but abolished this loophole in 2017.
2. Women inherit less than their brothers
Inheritance can have a huge impact on the economic security of women across the world. Unfortunately, various countries limit the amount of inheritance a woman can have through different laws. In Tunisia and elsewhere, a woman can only inherit half of what her brother can. President Beji Caid Essebsi has called for the end to this unfair inheritance rule.
The law has not officially been changed, but President Essebsi’s step forward on this issue has the power to level the playing field for women in the coming future.
3. Men receive less punishment for “honour killings”
In many countries, including Egypt and Syria, men are given a lesser sentence for the murder of a woman if she is caught in an adulterous act. In both countries, activists are working to abolish these laws. The Association for the Legal Aid of Women has approached the UN with a written statement detailing the horrors of honour-based crimes and the work they are doing to stop them.
In Syria, Samar Yazbek has founded Women Now for Development. The organization tackles many forms of gender inequality, including honour killings, with the hopes of creating a post-war Syria rooted in gender equality.
4. A woman’s testimony counts half as much as a man’s
In cases of adultery, Iran considers a woman’s testimony to be half as valuable as a man’s. Iranian women are challenging this law, among others, with their own political power.
In the nation’s elections last May, more than 180 women’s rights activists signed a declaration which outlined their demands of the next president. Their demands included equality in political participation and an end to all gender discrimination.
5. Husbands have more rights than their wives
Gender discrimination doesn’t just happen within greater society – it can occur in someone’s own home. In Mali, a husband is considered to be the head of the household, and his wife must be obedient to him.
But Mali’s own ONE Champion Nana Alassane Toure is working to change these discriminatory social norms through promoting education. ONE Youth Delegates including Toure, released a statement on how education can change the fate of women around the world.
6. Men can choose where women work
In 18 countries around the world, women cannot get jobs without their husband’s permission. In Cameroon, the law allows a husband to prohibit certain jobs for his wife if he feels that they are not in his family’s best interest.
Grassroots activist Fidele Djebba has, at great risk, spoken up against these practices and promoted economic empowerment for the youth, specifically girls, of the country. For her efforts, she received the U.S. Embassy Yaounde’s 2017 Cameroonian Woman of Courage Award in March 2017.
7. Women can be beaten
Domestic violence has caused immense harm to women around the world, and continues to do so. 46 countries do not have laws in place to protect women from domestic violence, but women around the world are advocating to put laws in place.
In Egypt, multiple women’s rights organizations are standing behind a domestic violence bill to combat various forms of violence against women.
8. Women cannot perform physical labour
In Russia, women are not allowed to enter 456 professions, unless a special committee deems the conditions to be safe for a woman. 31-year-old Svetlana Medvedeva was denied from becoming a captain of a shipping company – her dream job – based on this law.
After a gruelling five year battle, a Samaran court has ruled that denying her the job was a discriminatory practice. Though the shipping company was still not required to hire her, Medvedeva’s lawyers agree that this ruling will set a legal precedent for female workers in the future.
9. Women cannot pass on citizenship in the same way as men
In at least 22 countries mothers are not allowed to pass citizenship to their children as easily as fathers are. Nepal saw a huge victory against this practice last year as Deepti Gurung was allowed to pass citizenship along to her daughters. Gurung sees her victory after a two-year conflict with Nepal’s Supreme Court as “half-won,” stating that this will not be a victory until all mothers can pass on citizenship to their children in the same way fathers can.
As the world celebrates International Women’s Day this year, it must be remembered that the rights of women matter each and every day. The international struggle to end discrimination continues and people around the world can always play a role in further chipping away at these laws so that the world may dissolve them for good.