IMPACT

Countries Are Banning Rapists From Marrying Their Victims To Avoid Punishment: Report

02/23/2015 02:10 pm ET | Updated Feb 23, 2015
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More countries are aiming to end sexual violence against women, as gender equality continues to become a priority around the world.

In a new report, advocacy group Equality Now found that since 2000, five countries -- Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Peru and Uruguay -- have repealed or amended provisions that had allowed rapists to avoid punishment by marrying their victims.

The developments are among a variety of other positive resolutions highlighted in the report, which examined progress and setbacks regarding gender equality on the 20-year anniversary of the United Nations' 4th World Conference on Women held in Beijing. A handful of other countries, for example, have criminalized marital rape in the past 15 years, and Colombia, Mexico, Romania and Turkey have passed legislation equalizing the minimum ages for males and females to legally wed.

However, the report -- which examined laws involving economic status, violence against women, marital status and personal status (such as citizenship) -- noted that a major milestone tracking gender equality had not been met.

In 2000, the U.N. General Assembly set a goal to end all laws that discriminated against women around the world by 2005 -- an objective that "was far from met," according to the report. A decade after the target year, women are still fighting for respect as equals in numerous ways.

Dozens of countries spanning the globe still have no law banning violence in the home. It's an issue that has historically been both ignored by governing bodies and underreported by women, according to Liesl Gerntholtz, executive director of the women's rights division at Human Rights Watch.

"Because the violence is so invisible you [need] laws to enroll judges, police and other authorities to look for it and prosecute it," she told The Huffington Post last year. "Violence against women is frighteningly simple and complex. Violence will stop when perpetrators stop."

Women also remain significantly less economically empowered than their male counterparts. On average, women earn between 4 and 36 percent less than what men earn, according to the International Labor Organization's Global Wage Report 2014/15. They also make up a smaller share of the labor force: 72.2 percent of men globally were employed in 2013, while 47.1 percent of women were, according to a report published last year.

Still, the world has witnessed significant progress in ending gender-based discrimination worldwide, and -- according to U.N. Women -- more women in positions of influence has made a difference.

"Ensuring women are in parliaments, are on the front line of justice, and are represented in the judiciary and customary justice systems helps women to access their rights," the group says.

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