Economic Growth Requires Eliminating Discrimination Against Women in Family Law

Date:

Economic Growth Requires Eliminating Discrimination Against Women in Family Law

  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Monday, April 03, 2023
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • Women are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of the global economic slump due to discriminatory family laws and policies that limit women’s access to education, employment, inheritance, property ownership, and fair pay.

  • Now, Sri Lanka is working to reform the MMDA in response to intense public pressure for change spearheaded by organisations fighting for Muslim women’s rights.

  • Despite a reasonably progressive Personal Status Act passed in 1956 that encouraged Equality between spouses and outlawed polygamy, women still do not enjoy equal inheritance rights in Tunisia.

  • The Global Campaign for Equality in Famly Law was formed by eight prominent women’s rights and faith-based organisations, along with UN Women, to fight for urgently needed legislative change.

  • The time is now for family law reform!

Women are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of the global economic slump due to discriminatory family laws and policies that limit women’s access to education, employment, inheritance, property ownership, and fair pay.

Denying women equal economic rights is not only unfair, but it also seriously slows down national socioeconomic development. Governments must quickly change unfair family rules favouring males over women because they cannot afford to exclude half of their people.

Women carry out more unpaid work than men do

Current financial crises, skyrocketing inflation, and crippling debt are plaguing numerous nations. A global economic slump brought on by the COVID-19 epidemic, Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, and catastrophic weather brought on by climate change serve as the background to this. According to research, such economic downturns intensify gender inequality at home. Women are more likely than males to be burdened with more unpaid domestic chores, including cooking, cleaning, and caring for family members.

The International Labour Organization estimates that women and girls perform up to 76% of unpaid care work. Women are forced to work longer hours and give up paid work due to the unequal division of informal labour, which can also harm their future financial and professional possibilities.

Unpaid care work may contribute anywhere from 10% to 39% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and up to 10% of global economic production. Despite making a significant financial contribution to society, it is not included in the official GDP statistics that gauge a nation’s financial performance. This is due to the widespread perception that women and girls are “fulfilling their family responsibility” by performing unpaid household work, which some economists and policymakers share.

Such discriminatory gender stereotypes are ingrained in patriarchal family systems and are codified in and reinforced by sex-biased family laws restricting women’s access to the workforce.

Legislative restrictions on women’s access to equal education and economic participation lower their earning potential, weaken their influence over decisions and exacerbate the gender pay gap.

This places women in greater danger of various human rights violations, including sexual and gender-based violence and exploitation, and requires many of them to stay financially dependent on male relatives.

Around half of all nations have rules governing economic status that discriminate against women.

Words & Deeds: Holding Governments Accountable to the Beijing +30 Review Process – Sex Discrimination in Economic Status Laws, an Equality Now policy brief, demonstrates how roughly half of countries still have economic status laws that treat women unequally, making them more susceptible to exploitation both offline and online.

Only 14 out of the 190 economies evaluated have achieved full legal Equality, according to recent data from the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2023 report. In a typical nation, women only have 75% of the same rights as men.

The same survey claims that in 89 economies, women suffer barriers to marriage and divorce. Regrettably, 43 economies still prefer sons over daughters when dividing property, and 41 economies do not give equal inheritance rights to male and female surviving spouses.

These numbers are strongly correlated with one factor: family laws that discriminate against women and girls. Data from the World Bank were examined by Mala Htun, Francesca R. Jensenius, and Jami Nelson Nunez in Gender-Discriminatory Laws and Women’s Economic Autonomy. They discovered a direct link between legislation that limits women’s economic autonomy and laws that discriminate against women in matters of family and personal status, such as marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance.

Legal and religious prejudice are intertwined.

One of the many nations having sex-discriminatory family laws in Sri Lanka. A severe economic crisis and public calls for political reform have recently affected it.

Ermiza Tegal, a lawyer and activist, draws attention to the correlation between this turmoil and a rise in domestic violence and sexual assault.

Tegal is advocating for legal reform, pointing to mounting data showing a “direct relationship between discriminatory family laws and women’s physical and mental health, and vulnerability to exploitation and violence,” with unfair legal provisions and practises pushing women and children into poverty and keeping them out of the workforce and development opportunities.

The Muslim Intestate Succession Law limits daughters’ inheritance rights to half those of sons compared to daughters, and the Jaffna Matrimonial Rights and Inheritance Ordinance (or Thesawalamai), which only applies to Jaffna Tamils, forbid married women from selling real estate without her husband’s approval, are two examples of Sri Lanka’s discriminatory laws.

The Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA), which permits child marriage, forbids women from signing their marriage contracts and does not recognise the concepts of marital property or alimony, is another illustration.

Now, Sri Lanka is working to reform the MMDA in response to intense public pressure for change spearheaded by organisations fighting for Muslim women’s rights.

Despite a reasonably progressive Personal Status Act passed in 1956 that encouraged Equality between spouses and outlawed polygamy, women still do not enjoy equal inheritance rights in Tunisia.

Samia Fessi is the president of Kadirat, an Organisation that works to remove discriminatory laws. She is also a prominent women’s rights movement member, fighting for an equitable inheritance for many years.

Fessi states that “women rights campaigners argue legitimately that inheritance equality will benefit economically marginalised women as half is better than nothing.” We think discriminatory legislation should be repealed to enhance women’s lives.

In 2017, as part of the progressive revisions to Tunisia’s Personal Status Code announced by the country’s former president Beji Caid Essebsi, there was anticipation that equal inheritance would be granted.

He successfully adopted the reform Bill by the Ministerial Council despite resistance from conservatives who claimed that equal inheritance was against Islamic Shari’a law.

Sadly, Essebsi’s passing in 2019 resulted in the loss of presidential support, preventing the Bill from passing. With Kais Saeid as president, there is less chance that reform will happen soon. He has presided over the adoption of a new Constitution that declares Tunisia to be an Islamic country and requires the state to work towards “the ideals of pure Islam in safeguarding life, honour, money, religion, and freedom.” He supports conservative views on inheritance and other social issues.

Everyone benefits when family laws are changed.

According to the report by Equality Now, “women’s legal capacity, or their capacity to act and make decisions about money, travel, work, property, and children independently of the men in their lives, is by far the strongest predictor of the share of women with bank accounts, the share of women who participate in firm ownership, and the participation of women in the labour force.”

Mala Htun, et al.’s study agrees that reforming family laws to be more equitable “may be the most critical precondition to empower women economically” and that everyone should prioritise doing this since it would “unleash huge economic potential.”

Worldwide data suggests that accelerating the process of gender equality can boost a nation’s economy significantly, and solid evidence demonstrates that countries with environments that encourage women to engage and succeed in the labour market have more diversified, dynamic, and robust economies.

Work and property rights can give women access to loans, insurance, and social safety programmes like pensions and provident funds, lowering the risk that they would experience old age poverty and strengthening their and their family’s ability to withstand economic downturns.

Women with full legal power and agency are more likely to pursue an education, support skill and income development, and support economic growth. Women are also more likely to invest in their families’ well-being by prioritising their kids’ health, nutrition, and education.

The Global Campaign for Equality in Famly Law was formed by eight prominent women’s rights and faith-based organisations, along with UN Women, to fight for urgently needed legislative change.

The campaign urges governments to prioritise Equality in family law, policy, and practice, particularly given the severe economic difficulties that disproportionately affect women and girls. Removing or changing sexist family laws and any attempts to enact new discriminatory legislation is necessary.

Every nation seeking to overcome economic obstacles must ensure that its laws governing the family and personal status safeguard and advance women’s legal and financial rights. The multilateral and bilateral organisations that support nations must also make this a top priority. Economic Equality in society is the result of economic Equality in the family. The time is now for family law reform!

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