How can parliaments ensure that laws they adopt have a positive impact on women’s lives?
This question was at the centre of WFD’s seminar on reviewing legislation with regards to gender equality, organised in partnership with the House of Representatives of Morocco on 6-7 February. The seminar brought together MPs, parliamentary staff, and experts in gender and parliamentary affairs from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon and Cape Verde to discuss practical ways to support the review of legislation in the region.
Post-legislative scrutiny and gender
Post-legislative scrutiny is when parliaments assess whether, and to what extent, laws have met their intended objectives and outcomes. To understand how laws affect women and whether they contribute to advancing gender equality, it is crucial to assess proposals with regards to women’s rights during the process of developing laws.
Though evaluating legislation from a gender perspective can reveal inequalities between women and men, it unfortunately does not actively protect women’s rights. Achieving gender equality through legislation is often an after-thought when it should be recognised as one of the primary objectives of any legislation, whether it focuses on housing, policing or gender-based violence. Parliaments must make sure that, from the outset, principles of gender equality are embedded in the laws they adopt.
Eliminating violence against women
Laws to eliminate violence against women, in particular, must be subject to meticulous scrutiny to ensure they are adequately enforced and that they do indeed protect women from all kinds of violence and harassment.
Rachid El Merzguioui, Expert and Professor at the University of Fez, said:
“Violence against women is everybody’s concern. Everyone must fight it and contribute, in one way or another, to implementing laws effectively to prevent it.”
(Photo: MPs, parliamentary staff, and experts in gender and parliamentary affairs explore gender equality and post-legislative scrutiny, Rabat, February 2019.)
In several countries across the Middle East and North Africa, challenges and obstacles remain to fully implementing legislation that protects women and girls from gender based violence. Post-legislative scrutiny gives parliaments a clear view on how laws are working in practice and how they can be improved.
For example, gender specialist Marguerite Elhelou shared a review of Lebanon’s 293/2014 law which aims to protect women and family members from domestic violence. The review has revealed a number of gaps, including not explicitly criminalising domestic violence, not applying to domestic workers, and being secondary to existing customs.
Protecting working women
Following the same methodology (outlined in WFD’s Principles of Post-Legislative Scrutiny by Parliaments), participants discussed how labour laws can be reviewed with gender equality in mind. This includes the extent to which these laws protect women’s rights and promote gender equality in the labour market, especially with regards to questions of equal pay, work-life balance, and women’s safety in the workplace.
Budgeting for gender equality
No review of legislation would be complete without a thorough analysis of how resources are allocated to implement such laws. The budget, as the instrument that matches resources to policy, is a particularly good indicator of attitudes towards gender equality. Gender budgeting reflects the willingness of governments and parliaments to improve conditions for women and girls.
In many places, women do not have equal access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities, so legislative processes need to be geared towards mending these inequalities and protecting women’s rights, and the necessary resources have to be made available for this purpose.
WFD has worked with the Equity Committee in Morocco since 2013. While it is not yet a permanent parliamentary body, we hope to support it to integrate gender analysis and gender-budgeting in policy-making. We will continue to collaborate on this important area of work in the future.