Did you know 25% of economies covered by the 2014 Women, Business and the Law pilot indicator on protecting women from violence have no laws in place on domestic violence? The Women, Business and the Law dataset and report provide a breakdown of the legal framework affecting women’s ability to contribute to entrepreneurial and economic activity in 143 economies.
The report, which is fully available online for download as of today, covers legal differences that affect women’s economic empowerment including areas such as personal capacity, property, and employment legislation. For the first time, the report also includes data on violence against women legislation.
It is important that men are part of the discussion about the inequalities faced by women and girls around the world. The actor Emma Watson, in her speech on behalf of the HeForShe campaign at the United Nations this week, called on men to be part of the change. But the process of change should not stop there—around the world, women need enforceable legal protection and mechanisms that guarantee their rights.
Let’s take a look at the issue of domestic violence legislation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. As of April 2013, only two countries in the region—Morocco and Jordan—out of the 10 covered by the Women, Business and the Law dataset had legislation on domestic violence. But progress is coming: Since then, the number of countries enacting such legislation in the region has increased rapidly.
Governments such as Tunisia, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia started—by enacting or drafting laws to combat domestic violence. Recently, the Tunisian Ministry of Youth, Sports and Women recognized the importance of protecting women from violence, reporting that 31% of women are victims of physical abuse and 28% of women are victims of psychological abuse. The 2014 Constitution includes a provision on the State’s responsibility to take all measures to protect women from violence (article 46). Furthermore, a domestic violence law is being drafted to empower and protect women from violence. The law is expected to pass this year.
While enacting domestic violence legislation marks a step forward in protecting and empowering women, much work lies ahead. Conflict and political instability in the region since the Arab Spring have aggravated women’s vulnerability and sexual harassment is epidemic. A 2013 study by UN WOMEN found that as many as 99.3% of women in Egypt experienced some type of sexual harassment over the course of their lives.
Protecting women from violence by enacting legislation and imposing penalties on perpetrators is a first crucial step towards gender equality. Men’s participation in advocating for legal change and the proper enforcement of existing laws is also crucial. Monitoring where countries are on the path to change is where the Women Business and the Law dataset can help to play a role.