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6 Reasons to Support Equality Now This International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is Friday, March 8. Billions of women live without full legal equality, so we’re calling for urgent action to repeal or amend the hundreds of laws worldwide that discriminate based on sex and/or gender. Such laws violate fundamental human rights and prevent women and girls from reaching their full potential. They also don’t only hurt women – they’re damaging to everyone.

Did you know…

  • A typical economy only grants women 64% of the same rights as men.
  • No economies achieved legal equality in 2023.
  • In the United States, discrimination against women is still not explicitly prohibited in the Constitution. Sex is yet to be categorized as a “protected class” alongside race, religion, and national origin through the incorporation of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
  • 77 countries have laws preventing women from working in specific jobs because of factors such as ‘the time of day they are performed.’
  • Over 2.7 billion women worldwide are restricted from having the same job choices as men.

There are many reasons to support Equality Now this International Women’s Day, but here are six:

REASON ONE: Sexist laws limit economic growth by restricting millions of women’s and girls’ access to education, employment, and property ownership.

In every part of the world, including countries considered to be progressive, laws still exist that discriminate on the basis of sex and/or gender. For example:

  • In Brazil, women are required by law to retire earlier than men.
  • In China, women are legally prohibited from engaging in certain trades. This includes any which the State specifies female workers “should avoid.”
  • In Madagascar, women are forbidden by law from undertaking any form of night work, except in family establishments.
  • In Cameroon, a husband can legally administer and dispose of his wife’s property.
  • In Tunisia, laws exist that limit women’s inheritance rights, and provide that any sons inherit twice as much as daughters.

Additional examples of sex discrimination in economic laws can be found in our Words & Deeds publication. 

REASON TWO: Discriminatory laws put women and girls at risk, undermining their safety and economic security.

A lack of financial independence and agency can bring women to the brink of poverty. This can make them more likely to stay in abusive relationships and/or more vulnerable to exploitation, violence, and forced marriage. According to the Women, Business and the Law 2024 report of the World Bank:

  • In 18 economies, a married woman is legally required to obey her husband.
  • In 28 economies, the husband is legally designated as the head of the household.
  • 19 countries have laws that allow husbands to legally prevent their wives from working.
  • 92 countries do not guarantee equal pay for equal work.

REASON THREE: Investing in legal equality isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s also a smart economic move.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused skyrocketing unemployment rates and reduced demand for goods and services over the past four years. The entire global economy has been damaged, and women in every part of the world have borne a disproportionate burden. Pursuing full economic equality is a straightforward strategy toward a swift, robust, and more equitable recovery for everyone. But there can be no economic parity without universal legal equality.

Full and equal economic participation by women would increase global GDP by more than a quarter. In fact, nearly $28 trillion of additional shared wealth would be contributed annually to the worldwide economy. 

By unlocking every woman’s full potential, communities everywhere can break the cycle of poverty. They can also better address global issues like climate change, thereby boosting global productivity and stimulating economic prosperity worldwide. To prevent a global recession in the future, we must urgently prioritize legal equality today. That’s why our theme this International Women’s Day is Unlock Women’s Potential. Unlock the World.

Unlock Women's Potential this International Women's Day.

REASON FOUR: Equality Now successfully challenges legal discrimination everywhere through our unique combination of strategic advocacy and global collaboration.

We have the knowledge, expertise, and capacity to support governments worldwide to fast-track global economic growth through the reform of national legislation, customary laws, and legal practices in family, civil, penal, labor, and commercial law. 

Over the past 30 years, we have contributed to the elimination or amendment of 85 discriminatory laws worldwide. Thanks in part to our advocacy and the hard work of our partners, for example, women are no longer prohibited from working at night in Bolivia and France. And in the Bahamas, women now have inheritance rights equal to those of men. In 2023 alone, we helped change 15 laws, potentially changing the lives of millions of women and girls!

  • In 2020, the government of Switzerland committed to undertaking a review of inequalities between women and men in Swiss federal law. This followed ongoing pressure from Equality Now over laws around paid parental leave.
  • In 2021, we successfully advocated for the reversal by the US Government of a directive that banned transgender persons from serving in the military. 
  • Also in 2021, our work contributed to the partial removal of legal restrictions on the types of work women in Russia are allowed to engage in.

This is just a glimpse of what we’ve been able to accomplish in recent years. However, our work is not done. Hundreds of laws still exist that limit women’s ability to participate fully in the economy, live freely, and reach their full potential. International Women’s Day is the perfect time to support Equality Now and help make equality reality.

REASON FIVE: Equality Now holds governments accountable for gender-based discrimination by highlighting regressive legislation through our global reviews.

We track, review, and shine a light on sexist legislation. We also have an unparalleled track record of reforming discriminatory laws worldwide. Our Resource Center is packed with in-depth analysis of women’s rights issues, including sexual violence, sexual exploitation, harmful practices, and legal discrimination, from our expert network of lawyers and activists. More than 55% of discriminatory laws around which we’ve campaigned since 1999 have been fully or partially reformed.

Our report on sexual violence and disability in Kyrgyzstan has been widely shared at government and UN events. In 2023, the Government of Kyrgyzstan and law enforcement shared that they are ready to implement our recommendations with our support. Then, in January 2024, the President of Kyrgyzstan signed the law amending the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code of Kyrgyzstan to better protect victims of sexual violence crimes. The Government also added information on sexual violence against women with disabilities to the government’s educational platform.

REASON SIX: Equality Now is pivotal in facilitating coalitions and seeding movements for legal and systemic change. 

By collaborating with regional and national partners, we draw upon the collective wisdom of a large, diverse community of women and feminist organizations and combine it with our own legal expertise and resources. 

The Hurra Coalition
  • Since 2019, we have worked with women’s rights organizations in the MENA region as part of the Hurra Coalition. Together, we advocate for the progressive reform of family law by bringing national laws across the region into compliance with international human rights standards. The Coalition has created a safe space for women to come together to learn, strategize, and support one another. Coalition members are launching campaigns on the fair distribution of matrimonial wealth in divorce, custody of children by divorced mothers, and child marriage. This work would have been unthinkable ten years ago due to the challenges and risks involved with challenging religious law. UN Women recognized the Coalition’s work in the UN Women’s Generation Equality Accountability Report in 2022.

  • As one of the founding members of the Alliance for Universal Digital Rights (AUDRi), we have been calling for the adoption of a universal digital rights framework, rooted in human rights law and underpinned by an intersectional feminist, anti-discrimination analysis. This work is essential in the digital age when women and girls face new threats to their safety and well-being.

This work, as well as our work to amplify grassroots efforts through global campaigns, elevates the voices of local communities. Together, we reach leaders, policymakers, and citizens everywhere.

Invest in legal equality this International Women’s Day. Unlock women’s potential. Unlock the world. Together, we can open the door to a more prosperous world – for everyone.