Re-establishing the rule of law in conflict-affected countries is indispensable to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, as a key element of sustaining peace. UNDP takes a holistic approach to promoting gender justice, including by supporting our national partners to: protect the rights of women and girls by putting in place non-discriminatory laws and policies; promote women’s access to justice and enhance their security by responding to their unique needs; ensure that women lead and participate in rule of law institutions and processes; and increase accountability for sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Addressing SGBV requires an increase in public awareness of the ills of SGBV, strong mechanisms for prevention and to fight impunity for these crimes, engagement of all genders in advocacy efforts, and adequate psychosocial and socioeconomic support for survivors. UNDP also works closely with the United Nations Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict to ensure complementarity.
Many Arab countries have introduced positive legislative reforms that promote gender equality and protect women from violence; however, guaranteeing equality before the law remains a persistent challenge across the region, impeding access to justice for most women. To explore avenues for enhancing women’s rights in the region, UNDP in partnership with UN Women, UNFPA, and ESCWA launched a debate on what current legislation means for gender equality before the law and protection from violence. The regional dialogue brought together a group of advocates from the government, judiciary, and parliament, as well as civil society organizations and activists working on women’s rights and access to justice to discuss the newly released Gender Justice and the Law Study.
The study consists of 18 country reports, validated by national counterparts, which point to salient issues for the region. For example, the study found that:
In a few countries, the constitution does not guarantee gender equality.
In at least 5 countries, penal codes exonerate a rapist from punishment if they marry the victim.
Penal codes in 11 countries allow for mitigating circumstances, such as adultery, to decrease penalties or exonerate perpetrators of so called “honor" killings.
None of the countries included in the study explicitly criminalizes marital rape.
Nationality laws in 10 countries limit the rights of women to pass citizenship to her children and a foreign spouse.
Family laws in all 18 countries do not give women equal rights in all aspects of marriage, divorce, guardianship and custody of children.
Labor laws in 16 countries restrict women from engaging in some types of night work.
Drawing on the study, experts engaged in the regional dialogue and subsequent debates identified priority areas for legal reform (related to penal codes, nationality laws, personal status laws, and labor laws) to promote a change in laws and mindsets in the region and to ensure equal access to justice for all. In 2019, UNDP, together with our UN and national partners, will continue to sustain the dialogue on women’s rights and empowerment creating opportunities for exchange on specific topics at the regional and the country level.