Report | 2020

Executive Summary

This report was produced in collaboration with Women’s Learning Partnership (WPL), an international non-profit organization, a partnership of 20 autonomous women’s rights organizations located throughout the Global South promoting women’s leadership, civic engagement, and human rights.

This paper draws on WPL’s anthology of family law case studies, Feminist Advocacy, Family Law and Violence against Women, written by in-country scholars and edited by Mahnaz Afkhami, Yakin Ertürk, and Ann Elizabeth Mayer. With a focus on Brazil, India, and Iran, this paper demonstrates how women are organizing for legal reform, helping to shape non-discriminatory policies, and campaigning to counter current legal and social justifications for gender-based violence. This analysis uses the countries’ legal discrimination score as measured by the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Index to assess several aspects of family law, including whether married women are required to obey their husbands, are permitted to manage assets, can initiate a divorce, and whether there are effective laws against domestic violence.

The examples of Brazil, India, and Iran demonstrate the importance of reforming family law to ensure women’s equality in the private, family sphere where vital decisions are made affecting women. Uneven progress in legal reforms in a relatively young democracy is exemplified in Brazil, the challenges of legal pluralism come to the fore in India, and the setbacks to women’s rights occasioned when primacy is accorded to religious law are illustrated in Iran.

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