Citizen activism is seeing ‘marry your rapist’ laws disappearing, finally. But laws protecting perpetrators of rape are still in place all over the world, writes Janelle Weissman from UN Women National Committee Australia
There is a movement afoot. People all across the globe are vocally and visibly opposing laws that for too long have kept women from justice. The notorious ‘marry your rapist’ laws are toppling, because of citizen activism, government action, UN Women coordination and global voices speaking out.
Wind back the clock. In 2012, Amina al-Filali was raped. Seven months after being forced to marry her alleged rapist, Amina, just sixteen years-old, took her own life, to escape life with her abuser. In 2014, Morocco’s parliament abolished the law which gave impunity to perpetrators like Amina’s rapist, provided they married their victims.
I’d like to say that Morocco was one of the last to extinguish such laws, but that is far from the truth: Despite some progress in the last few years, it is estimated that 90% of countries around the world still have at least one discriminatory law in their legal frameworks. This includes laws protecting perpetrators of rape from prosecution if they are married or if they marry the victim, like Amina. Laws banning female genital mutilation or child marriage that are not enforced. Laws that don’t protect survivors of violence who pursue court action.
But that is poised to change.
Earlier this year, the Roadmap for Substantive Equality: 2030 (Roadmap) was launched. The Roadmap is a UN Women initiative which focuses on repealing or amending discriminatory laws, and supports the implementation of national laws to advance human rights and gender equality.
The Roadmap’s goals are simple: by 2030, no country has legislation that discriminates against women and by 2020, we should be able to measure the progress made to date, to guide our course of action to achieve this goal. This change cannot happen overnight, but it can happen. The initiative mobilises advocates at all levels to urge decision-makers to repeal discriminatory laws and enforce laws that promote gender equality. It’s about partnerships, across and within countries, it’s about collecting and disseminating proven practices to organise, update and implement laws. To deliver on the Roadmap, UN Women will strengthen capacity of governments and grassroots groups to raise awareness, monitor progress and achieve results.
And we are already witnessing the winds of change. Riding on the heels of Tunisia and Jordan’s elimination of discriminatory rape laws, just last week, Lebanon repealed the infamous ‘marry your rapist law’. While these are important milestones, rape laws like this still exist in Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Palestine and Syria, as well as several countries in Asia, including the Philippines. There’s still a lot of work to do.
Achieving the Roadmap will take all of us. Today, there is a simple step you can take: take the pledge to abolish rape laws that protect perpetrators.
The campaign was launched last week, in solidarity with grassroots activists from Lebanon to Morocco, and with women survivors who deserve justice. Take the pledge today, and make your voice heard in support of justice, to put an end to discriminatory laws, once and for all.