We’ll look at Mali, South Sudan, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Each has laws that make it difficult for women to live peaceful lives. The laws in these countries are a direct result of a long history of sexism and a lack of protection for women. The worst laws for women are still prevalent in many parts of the world, but we can help to make these countries a little better.
The human development index for South Sudan is among the lowest in the world, and women suffer from numerous discriminatory social and cultural practices. The country’s ongoing conflict and limited understanding of gender equality have exacerbated women’s marginalization in many ways. While there are some improvements in South Sudan, women still face a myriad of challenges, including a lack of adequate infrastructure. Many communities have a distorted view of gender, with men being seen as superior to women.
Despite some promising changes in the country, South Sudan’s laws and regulations for women remain very restrictive. For example, child marriage is still widely practiced, and close to half of the country’s girls aged 15-19 are married. In fact, some girls are even married as young as twelve. In addition, there are few protections for women in South Sudan, and girls are vulnerable to domestic violence and exploitation.
A book called Yemen has recently been published about the situation of women in the country. In April 2011, Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president of Yemen, criticised women mixing with men. While this was uncontroversial in neighbouring countries like Egypt and Tunisia, it was frowned upon in Yemen. Fathers encouraged their daughters to mix with men. Then ‘Islamist hardliners’ began to exert their influence in public spaces and women’s lives were hampered. Some women reported beatings and harassment from political and religious forces.
The conflict in Yemen has resulted in increasing violence against women. Before the war, domestic violence was widespread in Yemen, but it has increased by 63 percent. Women in Yemen are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence because there is no legislation protecting them. As a result, survivors face limited access to medical treatment. In addition, humanitarian organizations that are responding to the conflict in Yemen tend to prioritize life-saving aid, rather than the rights of the victims.
The Taliban’s rules for Afghan women are shocking. For example, in one law, if a woman is caught with an unrelated man, she can be executed by stoning. The same law also bans the questioning of witnesses, including children, doctors, and defence lawyers. Although many senators initially sought a more lenient version of the law, one that would prevent relatives from testifying, both houses of parliament eventually passed a draft banning all testimony.
The Taliban’s relationship with women is complex. Women in Afghanistan are often forced to settle disputes out of court, and their legal rights are severely restricted. Even their informal justice systems are flawed, and women are forced to represent themselves by a male family member, which exacerbates their precarious position. In addition, women in Afghanistan face societal pressure to settle disputes. As a result, the Taliban’s administration of justice is their only chance to compete with the Afghan government.
Mali has one of the highest rates of domestic violence against women. A recent gender assessment concluded that 76 percent of women in Mali believe it is acceptable for men to beat women. In addition, women said that being beaten was justified if a man beats them up for burning food, arguing, being negligent with children, or refusing to have sexual intercourse. While the number of women who suffer abuse is alarming, there are many factors that can help improve women’s lives.
The High Islamic Council in Mali signed a declaration urging people to reject gender-based violence. The president of the council issued a fatwa to denounce conflict-related sexual violence. However, FGM/C remains legal in Mali, and all ethnic groups practice it. Despite the laws, authorities have yet to prevent it. In the past, girls were taken as ‘wives’ by armed groups and combatants.
In an effort to promote economic empowerment, the government of Pakistan has implemented poverty eradication policies focused on women. The government launched the Benazir direct subsidy programme, which has impacted more than 5.8 million people, and the Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Ordinance, which ensures that women receive legal rights to their inheritance property. The government has also implemented a new law granting up to six months paid maternity leave for working women and up to three months for fathers.
However, this women’s law has a long way to go before it makes any real difference. The justice system must be held accountable through increased public awareness and pressure from human rights groups to stop violent acts against women. One example of this is the murder of Farzana Parveen, a woman who was killed by her ex-husband and father while fleeing to marry another man. Though this case sparked a worldwide movement to protect women, the law is still poorly implemented.
The country has very few rights for women and restricts them to subordinate status. For example, a woman cannot leave her home without her male guardian’s permission. Even if a woman can obtain employment, she must still seek the permission of her male guardian before doing so. The country also has a strict dress code for women and requires men to wear only suits and ties.
Some violations of the Saudi labor code result in steep fines, such as those imposed for not providing separate spaces for women. For example, an employer may be fined SR10,000 if they fail to provide separate work spaces for women or provide them with adequate restroom facilities. This fine is intended to encourage employers to hire women and deter them from racial discrimination. However, women are often denied employment due to such laws.