What things make Pakistanis sad?

10 completely absurd, misogynistic laws that still exist today

UPDATE November 2017: This article was first published in March 2016. Since then, there has been some hopeful progress on legislative changes in Tanzania, Malta, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. These are marked accordingly in the article under 'Updates' and provided with relevant information.


The year is 2016. Fridges can shop alone, people with pets can skype, almost anything can be ordered with a click of the mouse and mankind has proven Einstein's theory of relativity.

And yet we still haven't managed to get men and women treated equally before the law around the world. On the contrary - there are still numerous laws that simply make it dangerous to live as a woman in our time and on our planet.

The following list of ten discriminatory laws from different countries shows that we still have a long way to go:

1) A woman must be available to her husband for 'unrestricted sexual intercourse' once she is old enough to do so

Image: Flickr: Andy Smith

In some parts of the world, unfortunately, “no” does not mean “no”. For example, in Singapore and India, 'non-consensual intercourse' (i.e. when the woman says 'no') within marriage is not a crime and is not considered rape as long as the wife is of a certain age: 15 years in India and just 13 in Singapore! In Yemen, where child marriage is widespread, there is even no minimum age.

2) A 15 year old girl can marry any man over the age of 18

Image: Pixabay

The marriage law passed in Tanzania in 1971 stipulates a minimum age for both boys and girls. For boys this is 18 years. Girls, on the other hand, can - with the consent of their parents - be married at the age of 15.

A stunt was recently performed in the middle of New York: a significantly older man took wedding photos with his 12-year-old bride in Times Square. The outrage caused by the sight of a child bride in the middle of New York City should be seen as representative of the reality in which millions of young girls around the world (have to) enter into child marriage. A small ray of hope: in Tanzania, a rethinking is slowly taking place. The youth organization Youth for Change is committed to raising the minimum age for marriages to 18 in all cases in order to create a fairer future for all children - regardless of gender.

UPDATE: In July 2016 Tanzania took an important step towards eliminating child marriage. From now on, every man who marries a girl of school age or who becomes pregnant faces up to 30 years in prison. Unfortunately, some loopholes remain in the law: girls from the age of 15 can still be married with express parental consent or at the age of 14 under a court order if 'special circumstances' exist. These circumstances are not precisely defined.

3) In terms of citizenship, women are second class in countries like Jordan, Lebanon or Monaco

Image: Flickr: UK Department for International Development


Many laws governing citizenship are still misogynistic. In Jordan and Lebanon, a child must have a Jordanian or Lebanese father to automatically receive citizenship in these countries. The mother's nationality is irrelevant and is not automatically transferred to the child. So if a Jordanian mother is married to a foreigner, her children do not have the right to become Jordanian citizens. Accordingly, children are often denied the right to access many government services, such as the health or education system.

4) If someone is kidnapped in Malta and the victim decides to marry the kidnapper, the kidnapper will not go to prison for it

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Yes, you heard right. A kidnapper can avoid punishment in Malta, a popular holiday destination for many Europeans, if he can convince his victim to marry him. The law says: If the offender enters into marriage with that person after abducting a person, he will not be prosecuted unless there is a lawsuit by the party whose consent to marry is required under civil law. Although this exception is very rarely used, it still shows how often many laws decide in favor of the attacker. Incidentally, Malta is not alone here. In Lebanon, men can be exempt from prosecution if they marry their victim immediately after being raped or kidnapped.

UPDATE: At an event jointly held by Global Citizen and CHIME FOR CHANGE in March 2016, the Maltese government pledged to repeal the law and remove the sexist clause from its penal code.

5) A husband may hit his wife as long as he does 'not cause serious harm'

Image: Lindsay Mgbor / DFID

Laws that allow men to engage in violence against women in marriage reinforce the persistent belief that a woman is 'property' of and is subject to the husband's will. There are still 46 countries in the world in which women are not protected from domestic violence by any form of legal protection. In Nigeria, husbands are even allowed to beat their wives for "the purpose of chastisement and reprimand" as long as it "does not cause serious permanent harm".

6) In Chile, Tunisia and Great Britain, a man will inherit more than a woman

Image: Wikimedia Commons

A Tunisian law from 1956 stipulates that where there are sons, the man inherits twice as much as the womanas if a man's life was twice as valuable as that of a woman. One encounters this form of discrimination in inheritance law both in distant countries and on the doorstep. Even if the British are currently trying to abolish the principle of the firstborn. The principle is that in the event of death, the family property will be handed over to the eldest son, regardless of how many daughters were born first. It was also just over four years ago that the succession to the throne was changed on the island in 2012, which is now aimed at the first-born child (!), Regardless of gender. It is a sad fact that the only thing connecting rich and poor seems to be gender disadvantage.

7) In Cameroon, a man can prevent his wife from having a job

Image: Lindsay Mgbor / DFID


Cameroon is one of 18 countries where a man can prevent his wife from taking up a job if he is convinced that doing so will not benefit the general good of the family. Such a law is not only discriminatory, but also makes it difficult for women without an independent income to escape the cycle of poverty.

8) Even today, women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive a car

Image: Joelle Hatem / Flickr

A fatwa issued in 1990 makes Saudi Arabia the only state in the world that bans women from driving. This is not an official law. A fatwa is an opinion or a statement by an Islamic scholar on a question that has been presented to him in order to often issue a ban on it. So even if it's not a law, fatwas still have authority and impose strict rules on how women should behave in public. Despite repeated attempts by intrepid women who did not shy away from getting behind the wheel (and sometimes driving short distances), the fatwa is still in force today.

Two women held in a 'terror' court in #SaudiArabia for driving and voicing their opinions online http://t.co/J76V2Phkc5#saudiwomendriving

- GAPS-NoWomenNoPeace (@Nowomennopeace) January 11, 2015


However, Saudi Arabia's recent progress on women's rights should give reason for hope: women in Saudi Arabia were allowed to vote in local elections for the first time last year. This enabled 19 women to secure a place for themselves in city authorities. A real milestone in the history of the country! Nevertheless, there are still too many things that are denied to Saudi women in their homeland, such as the right to freedom of movement.

UPDATE: On September 26, 2017, the government of Saudi Arabia decided to change the law and allow women to drive immediately. You can find out more here

9) Before the court, a man's testimony is more trustworthy than that of a woman

Image: Vicki Francis / DFID

Equality in court can never be achieved when a woman's voice is worth less than a man's in a trial. Even so, in countries like Pakistan, a woman's testimony is not given equal weight. For certain offenses in Iran, the testimony of two women to only one testimony by a man is required, which means that the evidence of a woman is classified as half as important as the evidence of a man.

10) 'Honor killings' are less serious crimes than 'normal' murders in Egypt and Syria

Image: Blupela

Retaliation for the murder of a woman believed to have brought shame on her family is less severe in Egypt and Syria than punishment for any other form of murder. According to Syrian law, the person who who surprises his wife, sister, mother or daughter during illegitimate sexual intercourse and in the course of which unintentionally injures or kills both, is serving a prison sentence of at least two years. However, the penalty for any other murder is 20 years of forced labor. This should not endorse the punishment by forced labor as a humane form of punishment, but only bring to mind the reality of how double standards are measured when it comes to violence against women.

Change has been slow in recent years, but there are tentative signs of change: Pakistan has only recently classified all forms of violence against women as criminal. And after filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won an Oscar for her film on honor killings, who drew attention to the issue, Pakistan's prime minister publicly announced that it would end the cruel custom for good.

Update: In a long-awaited victory for women’s rights, Pakistan passed a law that would punish those convicted of "honor killings" with a 25-year sentence. The tragic murder of social media star Qandeel Baloch in July 2016 sparked international outrage and sparked a national debate on 'honor killings'. More than 31,000 Global Citizens got involved in the worldwide movement and, in collaboration with Equality Now, CHIME FOR CHANGE and Oscar-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Global Citizen supported the counter-honor killings movement until the new law change was passed in October 2016 .


Legal injustices based on gender are one of the major barriers to empowering women and girls. And the problem is unfortunately widespread: strictly speaking, 90% of all countries have at least one law that restricts the rights or opportunities of women. These laws no longer have a place in the 21st century. They deny women the economic, political and social opportunities they need in order to reach their full potential of skills. Such established injustice must be combated as quickly as possible, regardless of whether this is done by declaring war on child marriages, honor killings or the previously restricted right of women to make their own (professional) decisions.


* For an extensive, worldwide list of discriminatory laws against women, see 'Equality Now's Ending Sex Discrimination in the Law.' Report.