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Achieving Legal Equality

Legal equality is the first step towards gender equality, yet almost every country in the world still has laws that discriminate on the basis of sex and/or gender, with the typical economy granting women just 75% of the rights that are enjoyed by men.

The challenge

A country’s laws set the tone for how it treats its people and how its people treat each other. When its laws are unfair – when they discriminate on the basis of sex or gender – cultural inequality and violence against women and girls are legitimized and become endemic.

Legal gender inequality affects every stage and aspect of the lives of women and girls, with legislation typically dictating a person’s basic rights and freedoms around economic independence, travel and citizenship, marriage and divorce, and personal safety and dignity.

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Malaysian mothers challenging discriminatory citizenship laws

A group of Malaysian mothers with children born outside the country come together with a human rights group to push for a cha…

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Alia – Lebanon

A Lebanese woman married to a Palestinian man is unable to pass her citizenship to her children or to her husband.  She suff…

Our response

We leverage our expertise in international law to end legislative gender discrimination while building coalitions and seeding new movements to advocate for better laws and practices.

We are committed to holding governments everywhere accountable for their obligations under international law, including by calling for reformation of unfair laws in areas including:

  • Protection From Violence. When laws to prevent sexual and domestic violence are insufficient or ineffective, violence against women and girls is legitimized.
  • Marriage And Divorce. Discrimination in marital laws, including those covering divorce and polygamy, disempowers women before, during, and after marriage.
  • Economic Status. Discrimination in-laws around inheritance, property ownership, and employment prevents women from being economically independent.
  • Personal Status. Discrimination in-laws around personal status restricts the rights of women and girls to travel, confer citizenship, and even participate in public life.

Explore our work to achieve legal equality

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The Maputo Protocol: Protecting African Women's Rights

One of the world’s most comprehensive and progressive women’s human rights instruments, the Protocol to the African Chart...

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Reforming Unequal Family Laws Globally

What is family law? Family is considered the foundational unit of society and is often associated with closely held beliefs a...

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Beijing +30: Holding governments accountable for ending discrimination in law

The 4th UN Conference on Women in 1995 was the birth of The Beijing Platform for Action, the most progressive blueprint ever ...

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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...

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We Need the Equal Rights Amendment

85% of UN Member States in the world have constitutions that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex and/or gender. The U...

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The State We're In: Campaigning for Equality in Nationality Law

If everyone is able to pass on their nationality and all its benefits to their children and spouse, families, communities, an...

Our Impact

We hold leaders accountable

In 1999, we published the first-ever report on sex-discriminatory laws around the world, called Holding Governments Accountable in the Beijing +5 Review Process. Equality Now publishes a Words & Deeds update report every 5 years to hold governments to account for their commitments under the Beijing Platform for Action, while inspiring and directing global efforts toward legal and policy reforms.

55% of the discriminatory laws highlighted in our 1999 Words and Deeds report have now been changed or repealed.

We stand up for women's rights

In 2020, Equality Now became a founding member of the Global Campaign for Equality in Family Law. The campaign has helped ensure equal citizenship laws for women in countries such as Kenya, Venezuela, Surinam, Monaco, Austria, and Senegal, and helped overturn legal protections for men who murder their wives or other female relatives in Haiti, Morocco, Jordan and Syria.

By collaborating with local and regional partners, we can address global barriers to gender equality in family law.

Explore our impact by region

For 20 years, our work in Africa has helped establish one of the most progressive legal frameworks for gender equality in the world. As secretariat for the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) Coalition, we have played a crucial role in the promotion and implementation of the Maputo Protocol, a landmark legal instrument designed to ensure equality for generations of African women and girls.

As of June 2023, the Maputo Protocol has been ratified or acceded to by 44 of 55 AU Member States, (and signed but not yet ratified by eight).

Our impact in focus: Strengthening legal advocacy in MENA through the Hurra Coalition

The term Al Hurra, meaning “free woman” in Arabic, encapsulates the ethos of the Hurra Coalition, a network of 15 partners working in 3 sub-regional groups across 10 countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, brought together by Equality Now to advocate for reforms around child marriage, custody law and the financial rights of women. Throughout 2022, we worked hard to grow and consolidate the Hurra Coalition, driven by our firm belief in the value of regional networking and mutual collaboration to build solidarity.

We brought together coalition members in person from across nations and regions to increase the efficacy of their campaigns through peer-to-peer learning. This enabled a successful collaboration to develop between our partners in Morocco and Tunisia, both of whom were working on national campaigns around domestic violence and divorce law. By demonstrating to policy-makers the successful application of progressive laws, the Moroccan partner was able to put the issue of custody by divorced mothers onto the national agenda.

We delivered training to build the competence and the capacity of our coalition partners, including Main Libres, a Hurra Coalition member from Morocco, who used knowledge and skills gained from the training to inform plans for its 16 Days of Activism activity programme. Other coalition partners have applied our training content to inform the development and implementation of youth programs in universities and rural areas in Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine, including our Lebanese partner LECORVAW, who worked directly with young survivors of sexual violence to develop and deliver awareness sessions for school girls in Tripoli, Northern Lebanon, in the face of significant resistance from school administrators.

We strengthened the advocacy efforts of our individual partners by offering them a collective voice with which to campaign on larger issues, such as the link between child marriage and climate change – an issue raised by one of our partners as a delegate at COP 27 in Egypt. We also facilitated crisis support through the coalition, including in response to attacks by religious leaders on our Palestinian partner, to whom other coalition members offered international platforms “safe from the physical attacks of conservative elements in Palestine.” 

“Through the Hurra Coalition, Equality Now has given women’s rights organizations from across the MENA region a powerful opportunity to be part of a collective, strategic movement to address discrimination and injustice against women and girls. The network has gone from strength to strength in 2022, developing into an effective advocacy group with a diverse membership that spans countries, religions, ages, and cultural backgrounds.”

Dima Dabbous, Regional Representative, MENA

News and resources

Read the latest news and insights

Day of the African Child: It’s time to let girls learn

June 14, 2024

June 16 marks the Day of the African Child, a day to celebrate the children across Africa and renew commitments to addressing...

The Belém do Pará Convention at 30: Understanding the impact on women’s rights in the Americas

June 7, 2024

Governments, civil society, and other international actors are gathering in Chile in the Conference of States Parties of the ...

The Belém do Pará Convention at 30: Five things you should know

June 7, 2024

1. What is the Belém do Pará Convention?  The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication...

Browse our key resources

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Twenty Years of the Maputo Protocol: Where Are We Now?

04 July 2023

On July 11 2003, African heads of state and government representatives gathered in Maputo, Mozambique, to adopt one of the mo...

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I need the ERA because...LGBTQ+ rights are human rights 

28 June 2023

Because discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation is sex discrimination, the ERA will make it much...

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Words and Deeds: Beijing+25 Report

02 March 2020

The 4th UN Conference on Women in 1995 was the birth of The Beijing Platform for Action, the most progressive blueprint ever ...

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Words and Deeds: Sex Discrimination in Personal Status Laws

02 May 2023

The 4th UN Conference on Women in 1995 was the birth of The Beijing Platform for Action, the most progressive blueprint ever ...

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The State We're In: Ending Sexism in Nationality Laws

07 January 2016

Our 2016 report, which was sent to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, documents a wide range of harmful...

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Guide To Advocating For Women’s Rights Using International Human Rights Mechanisms

30 November 2022

What is international human rights advocacy?  International human rights advocacy involves engaging with various UN mech...

Voices and stories

Learn from the people we work with

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Alia - Lebanon

A Lebanese woman married to a Palestinian man is unable to pass her citizenship to her children or to her husband.  She suff...

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Thuraya - Jordan

A Jordanian woman married to an Egyptian man is unable to pass on her nationality to her husband or children, and finds her c...

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Deena and Charulatha - Nepal

A mother escapes an extremely violent and abusive relationship, but with no proof of paternity, her daughter is repeatedly de...

What you can do

Changing the world begins when people like you speak out against injustice. Find out more about how you can get involved with our work today.

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