Reforming Family Laws

Equality in the family leads to less violence against women.

Family laws regulate, codify, and define roles and relations among family members. WLP is conducting research, facilitating trainings, and mobilizing an international campaign to reform discriminatory family laws to ensure women’s rights and freedoms.

Program Highlights

Research-based case studies from 11 countries

Advocacy trainings in the Middle East, West Africa, and South Asia

Global film screenings, workshops, and demonstrations

18 national campaigns

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Millions of women around the world are still subject to laws and practices that give the men in their family the power to control their right to marry, travel, work, inherit land and property, and to pass citizenship on to their children. Even in countries where the family laws themselves are not discriminatory, the enforcement of such laws can be discriminatory. In the worst cases, family members have been able to commit honor killings, child marriage, and wife battery with impunity. While such violent crimes might be technically illegal, in some communities there is little incentive or consensus to prosecute and punish the perpetrators.

In 2016, the WLP Partnership launched Family Law Reform to Challenge Gender-based Violence, an international research and advocacy project to reform discriminatory family laws. The goal of this initiative, which is being carried out in collaboration with the Ottowa-based International Development Research Centre (IDRC), is to inspire a global advocacy movement. Our research is drawing attention to the many linkages between discriminatory family laws and the levels of violence towards women in some societies. We are finding that where women are more equal in practice and under the law, there is less violence against women. Read more about WLP's family law reform project in this article by IDRC.

ADFM Morocco Advocacy for Soulaliyates Land Rights
WLP Morocco/ADFM and Soulaliyate women of Morocco's collective lands advocate for gender equality in land rights.

Family Law Research and Anthology

WLP is supporting locally-led research on reforming laws that impact women’s status and roles in public and private life. We are documenting the linkages between family law and violence against women in nearly a dozen countries and how citizens, activists, and lawmakers have worked to change public attitudes and implement lasting reforms. The research and case studies of local reform efforts,  published in an anthology, are providing the road map for WLP’s global advocacy campaign. 

Family Law Documentary Film

To build awareness and support for our family law reform initiative, WLP produced Equality: It's All in the Family, a film about the linkages between violence against women and family laws in communities in the Global South and North. The documentary, which has been translated into multiple languages, highlights stories about the impact of family laws on the lives and security of women, and examines successful advocacy campaigns.  

Family Law Reform Campaign 

Through our national and regional networking and training of trainers institutes (TOTs), WLP is building the capacity of grassroots organizations to develop messaging, policy recommendations, and advocacy plans for a global campaign to reform family law. 

Our campaign, Equality Starts in the Family, is being implemented by our partners and other organizations and individuals from countries with discriminatory family laws, and their allies. Together, we are engaging in policy dialogues with local authorities as well as with relevant international organizations active in countries targeted by the campaign. WLP is using social media to extend the visibility and reach of the campaign, and to help facilitate online organizing and international campaign networking.

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