20 years ago, the world pledged to reform laws that hurt women. How's it going?

The World
Tunisan women

Tunisian women wave flags during a march to celebrate International Women's Day, 2014.

Zoubeir Souissi/REUTERS

On Sept. 4, 1995, delegates and activists from 189 countries came to China to discuss and finalize the momentous Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a roadmap to raise the status of women.

One big part of the plan was a pledge to “revoke any remaining laws that discriminate on the basis of sex.” How’s that going?

The NGO Equality Now keeps track of laws that affect women worldwide. From their rolls, here are some of the worst of the worst still on the books, as well as some hopeful examples of reform.

The bad laws

1. In India, “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.”

2. In Malta, if a kidnapper “after abducting a person, shall marry such person, he shall not be liable to prosecution.”

3. In Tunisia, sons inherit twice as much property as daughters.

4. In Iran's courts, in cases of adultery, the testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man.

5. In northern Nigeria, violence “by a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife” is considered lawful.

Some hopeful change

1. In early 2015, Sudan changed its law so that survivors of rape will no longer be re-victimized with punishments for adultery or “immoral acts.”

2. In early 2015, Malawi changed the minimum age of marriage from 15 to 18.

3. In mid 2015, Nigeria banned female genital mutilation, in a country with one of the highest number of FGM survivors globally.

4. Argentina amended its penal code in April 2012 to remove the possibility of a settlement between a victim of sexual abuse and her perpetrator. Settlements had allowed perpetrators to go unprosecuted.

5. Over the past 10 years, several countries have been moving to reform their nationality laws to remove sex discrimination. In 2014, Denmark, Niger, Suriname and Vanuatu updated their laws, which previously discriminated on the basis of sex.

You can search discriminatory laws by country and see how to take action over at Equality Now's Beijing +20 page. And here's a video they've just released on their campaign.

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