Public Opinion is Clear: Urgent Legislation Required to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation! Read the story

International Women’s Day 2022: One Step Closer to Gender Equality?

International Women and Girls Series

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We are calling for the rights of young women and girls worldwide to be recognised and respected.

Gender equality is key to creating more peaceful societies and ensuring all children grow up safe from sexual abuse and exploitation!

International Women’s Day: One step closer to Gender Equality?

On International Women’s Day, we reflected on the role gender norms play on the lives of women and girls worldwide, how they contribute to ongoing issues such as human trafficking, child and early forced marriage, and online child sexual exploitation.

While we continue to address these issues globally, it is also important to celebrate the achievements and ground gained by our global network members thus far. Let’s celebrate this International Women’s Day (and beyond), by recognising some of the recent improvements in laws and legislations that better protect and support young women and girls all around the world!

From Benin to New Zealand, there have been positive changes in legislations that protect women and girls’ rights!

  • Spain approved a bill defining all non-consensual sex as rape. [1] Based on a “yes means yes” model, it will require explicit consent for sexual acts. The bill also reclassifies street and workplace harassment and female genital mutilation as criminal offences, proposing jail penalties for both crimes. 
  • Egypt’s parliament has toughened penalties for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), increasing the penalty for perpetrators to up to 20 years of imprisonment. [2] This is the second time that amendments have been made to the legislation banning FGM. 
  • New Zealand is currently discussing The Crimes (Child Exploitation Offences) Amendment Bill, which includes new legislation that will make it easier to protect young people from harassment, online sexual exploitation, and online grooming. [3]
  • In Benin, the Parliament approved a law that helps facilitate abortion in most circumstances. [4] The new law makes it legal to terminate a pregnancy if it would “aggravate or cause a situation of material, educational, professional or moral distress incompatible with the interest of the woman and/or the unborn child.” This represents great progress, as there are only a handful of countries in Africa that have relatively liberal abortion laws.
  • Tanzania’s government reversed a 2017 policy which banned women who had given birth from studying at state schools. [5] Now, every girl and woman with a child will be able to attend classes without discrimination!
  • Gabon is currently introducing three important changes in its legislation that will benefit women and girls. [6] It proposes that women will have the right to hold bank accounts, to divorce from their husband, and that any act of domestic violence can be considered proof for divorce. In addition to this, women will also have the right to safer abortions. 
  • In South Africa, the story of Agnes Sithole amplified the efforts to push for a reform in the law on marital property rights for black women and young women. [7] Agnes became a hero for hundreds of thousands of black women in Africa, when she at the age of 72, took her husband to court to stop him selling their home against her will, taking on decades-old apartheid-era laws in the process. 
  • In the US, senators introduced The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act of 2021 to protect and prevent child trafficking and exploitation through preventive education. [8]

The road towards a fair and equitable world for young women and girls remains challenging, but our network will continue to advocate for legislation that includes the rights of  children.

This International Women’s Day, we want to remind those in power that all children deserve protection, care, and respect!

Learn more about our global network of members and their work here.

ECPAT’s Project Beacon: Protecting children in the digital space

ECPAT strongly advocates for the legal protection of children in the digital space, as we believe that girls and young women have the right to be safe when navigating an online world. In Europe, ECPAT’s Project Beacon is working to influence the adoption of unified policies, regulations, and a robust legal framework that will ensure child protection in digital spaces and encrypted environments! Project Beacon does this by building awareness, advocacy and engaging across Europe with European Union leadership and the public. 

Read more about ECPAT Project Beacon and our efforts to change European legislation for the protection of girls and young women from any form of online sexual exploitation and abuse.