Saturday, April 5, 2008

Countries slow revoking laws that hurt women

Almost every country worldwide retains laws discriminating against women -- in areas including property and nationality -- despite years of pledges to revoke them, the author of a U.N.-commissioned study said on Friday.

Fareda Banda, a law professor at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, said that at least 53 countries still do not outlaw rape within marriage and that women own only 1 percent of the world's titled land.

Other discriminatory laws in effect throughout the world include statutes on divorce, maternity benefits, pensions, inheritance and crimes committed in the name of family "honour".

Weak legal protection means that violence against women and girls often goes unpunished in many places, Banda said in the report requested by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour.

The 47 member states of the U.N. Human Rights Council will discuss in June whether to create a post for an independent investigator mandated to shine a light on countries' discriminatory laws against women.

There are similar U.N. rights experts -- known formally as special rapporteurs -- currently investigating associated areas including violence against women, child prostitution, torture, racism, and people trafficking.

Banda told a news conference in Geneva, where the Human Rights Council is based, that governments who pledged at a major U.N. conference on women in 1994 to abolish laws that discriminate against women may need a nudge to get the job done.

"All sorts of things get in the way of good intentions," she said, noting that having a U.N. rights investigator calling attention to countries' discriminatory laws could help them prioritise it as an issue.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin