Statement by the Director-General, Ms Jan Beagle
Thursday, 14 September 2023
I am delighted to join this conversation of partners around our joint commitment to dismantle discrimination in law and in practice, as embodied in the Strategy for Equality in Law for Women and Girls by 2030.
We all know that equality in law is crucial for gender equality. Laws and policies shape the everyday experiences of women and girls in all aspects of their lives.
Laws can be instruments to protect, promote and fulfil human rights. They can contribute to stronger, more just and inclusive societies. Yet, they can also deny rights to women and girls, and be a major hindrance to sustainable development.
Despite global and national efforts, the narrative remains unchanged: –while there has been progress and many countries have introduced legislative reforms, legal equality is still far from being achieved on the books, and certainly not on the streets.
We are not only falling short of our legal equality goals, but also facing tremendous setbacks as intersecting challenges, including increasing conflict, pandemics, climate disasters and food insecurity, disproportionately affect women and girls.
As the only global intergovernmental organization exclusively devoted to promoting the rule of law to advance peace and sustainable development, IDLO places elimination of discriminatory laws at the core of its mandate. Through programmes, research, and advocacy across all regions, we support partners to establish strong legal structures that promote gender equality, empower women and girls, and increase their access to justice.
Our experience shows that removing discriminatory laws and building gender-transformative legal frameworks that are responsive to women’s needs, requires consistent, targeted, and ambitious action on multiple fronts.
Allow me to share five points, drawing on our experience.
First, it is critical to invest in comprehensive assessments of legal frameworks. These reviews can lead to new laws or the repeal of discriminatory ones. They also help reveal blind spots in unexpected areas such as commercial law, anti-corruption, or climate change that impact women’s rights.
In close collaboration with UN Women and local partners, IDLO has been developing comprehensive legal assessments in the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Kenya, and Mali.
These reports serve as essential tools to guide national efforts toward legal reform processes in these countries.
We are also conducting gender-focused legal assessments of climate frameworks in Burkina Faso and the Philippines to support women's rights and participation in climate action.
Second, successful legal reform relies on close collaboration with institutions capable of leading legislative change, including ministries of justice, law reform commissions, judiciaries, and parliaments.
And we need more women in the justice sector.
Ensuring that women have an active role in shaping justice systems as policymakers, adjudicators and implementers of justice is essential. Women’s participation brings a diversity of experience that helps ground the administration of justice in lived reality and makes laws and institutions more responsive to specific justice challenges faced by women and girls.
IDLO works to bridge the gender gap in the justice sector through capacity building for women at all levels, including women in law enforcement and in the judiciary. We are pleased to partner in many countries with the International Association of Women Judges.
Third, we must support civil society, especially women’s rights advocates, who play a key role in advancing legal reform through capacity development, strategic litigation, advocacy, and monitoring.
Fourth, it is important to combine legal reform with investment in justice areas which matter to women most, including family courts, legal aid and small claims tribunals. In Kenya, for example, we have supported the development of laws and policies on matrimonial property, divorce and domestic violence.
Lastly, partnerships are vital for expediting the adoption and enforcement of gender- responsive laws. We need strong multistakeholder coalitions for change across society, and to make men and boys partners.
To turn these recommendations into action we all need to mobilise the political will to ensure that legal reform is fast-tracked not just on paper, but in practice.
I would like to thank UN Women for organizing this event, for our long-standing partnership, and most of all for bringing all of us together to reaffirm our collective commitment to dismantle discriminatory laws, and to push forward against the pushback.
IDLO looks forward to continuing to work with all of you to make our equality commitments a tangible reality.