Parliaments are likely to play a crucial role when states transition from war towards peace. Yet this role is often overlooked and very little research exists on the role of parliaments in peace processes and peacebuilding. Parliaments are an important arena for the inclusion of warring parties, and the resulting interactions could either aid or […]
Since 2012, WFD’s support to women MPs across the Middle East and North Africa has focused on effective leadership and encouraging women MPs to use their political influence for legislative change that eradicates discrimination towards women and girls in the region.
At the heart of the programme is the Coalition of women MPs from Arab countries to combat violence against women, which was established in January 2014 with WFD support. The Coalition unites women MPs from thirteen countries: Libya, Jordan, Sudan, Lebanon, Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, Morocco, Palestine, Iraq, Djibouti, Kuwait & KSA. Calling for change at the national and regional level, the Coalition is a network that helps MPs share experience on what works and unite together for greater impact.
One in three women globally have experienced sexual or physical violence at least once in their lives. In the Middle East and North Africa region it is estimated that 37% of women experience some form of violence. This number does not include the masses of women who do not come forward to report incidents of violence out of fear of reprisal. Social stigma plays a fundamental role when it comes to how violence against women and girls is perceived. Contributing factors that allow this norm to prevail include a lack of legislation that criminalises domestic violence, limited protection for women inside their homes, as well as a justice and a court system ill prepared to prosecute perpetrators and protect victims. Legislatures can play a crucial role in establishing a legal environment that protects women. With improved laws that are more rigorously enforced, potential perpetrators will be discouraged from committing violence while survivors will have wider access to the necessary services and support. Increased public debate, new legislation, improved oversight, political leadership and enhanced regional cooperation are needed to ensure the rights of women and girls are upheld and impunity for perpetrators becomes a thing of the past.
WFD supported the Coalition in developing an Arab Convention to Combat Violence Against Women and Girls, similar to the Council of Europe’s ‘Istanbul Convention’. The Convention is designed to respond to the challenges that women face, in peace time as well as during conflict, and is the first ever regional commitment to end gender-based violence.
The Convention has been discussed by the Arab League’s Women Committee (which has 22 Arab governments represented) since 2017. A review of the fourth version concluded in Saudi Arabia in mid-February 2020, on the back of consultation meetings with MPs in six countries (Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia) to widen support for the convention. Now, the Convention will be reviewed for the last time and will hopefully go to the Council of the Arab League in late 2020 to be formally adopted.
At the national level, through the Coalition and in collaboration with dynamic national advocates in parliament, government, local campaign organisations, the business community, and the media, parliaments in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Tunisia and Palestine put violence against women and girls on the political agenda. By collectively targeting the ‘rape-marriage’ provision in the penal code – that allowed rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims – and legislation to tackle domestic violence, significant progress was made in the region in 2017. In Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine, penal code art. 522 in Lebanon, art. 308 in Jordan and art. 308 in Palestine were all repealed. WFD equipped members of the Coalition with the research capacity and the support they needed to influence colleagues in national parliaments. For example, in Palestine, WFD commissioned an expert study on the impact of discriminatory legislation on women to increase awareness about such legislation in parliament. Coalition meetings, organised with WFD support, took place in December and November 2017 to allow members to share their experiences and coordinate political action at the national and regional level.
Right before the pandemic closed the airways, in February this year, I had the privilege of speaking at an event hosted by the House of Representatives to discuss the work of their Petitions Committee. The event was attended by the Speaker, parliamentarians and a wide range of civil society organisations and diplomatic agencies eager to […]
Sudan’s 2019 revolution, which abruptly ended the military regime of Omar al-Bashir, showed the world that Sudanese women are standing shoulder to shoulder with men in the fight for democracy. Powerfully, the image that has become synonymous with the revolution in Sudan is that of Alaa Salah; a young woman, dressed in white, passionately addressing […]