Arab Women's Spring

20 Measures

Women, alongside men, participated in the protest movements that shook the Arab world in 2011 demanding freedom, equality, justice and democracy. Women, as well as men, paid and continue to pay a high price for their struggles. Today women must be able to play their full part in building the futures of their countries. Women's participation in public and political life, on an equal basis with men, is an essential condition for democracy and social justice, values at the heart of the Arab spring.

The changes sweeping the region, which in some countries have transformed the political landscapes, present real opportunities for women to push for their rights. Yet they also present risks of regression. Demands for equality are set aside while the efforts of protesters focus on bringing down regimes and dismantling oppressive state institutions. Recent history painfully reminds us that the massive occupation of public space by women during revolutions in no way guarantees their role in the political bodies of the regimes that follow.

Although the situation of women varies across the region, threats to their human rights converge. Women are now confronting attempts to exclude them from public life, as well as acts of discrimination and violence perpetrated with impunity by extremist groups and security forces. At a time when conservative forces appear to be growing in strength, it is vital that steps are taken to establish equal rights between men and women, as the very foundation of democratic societies.

The signatory organisations to this appeal call upon national governments and parliaments to implement the following “20 measures for equality”.

The signatory organisations to this appeal call upon international actors to support the implementation of these measures by: supporting national and regional women's rights movements and civil society organisations; systematically including women's rights in bilateral and multilateral political dialogues; and systematically including women's rights, with specific objectives and indicators, in all cooperation programmes.


20 measures for equality


On women's participation in political and public life

In countries in transition women are being marginalised or even excluded entirely from political bodies. In Egypt, there were no women in 2 committees nominated to draft the new constitution. A new electoral law abolished measures guaranteeing women minimum representation in parliament and women gained only 2% of seats in the recent elections. In Libya, the electoral law adopted by the National Transitional Council (NTC) contains no quota for the representation of women in elected bodies. In Morocco, a law adopted in October 2011 established a quota of only 15% and there is one woman minister in the 30 member cabinet (compared to 7 in the previous government). In Tunisia, the 41-member government contains only 3 women.

We therefore call on national authorities to:

1. Guarantee women's access to all political posts;

2. Adopt laws and policies requiring gender parity or, at a minimum, quotas of at least 30% of women in all political decision making bodies and elected assemblies;

3. Ensure the effective participation of women in all stages of elections, including within the body overseeing elections;

4. Conduct outreach and civic education campaigns to explain the rights of women, as voters and candidates, in the electoral process;

5. Adopt measures aimed at increasing the representation of women in the judiciary.

On constitutional and legislative reforms

Concessions on women's rights are often used as bargaining chips by politicians to maintain power by appeasing the most conservative forces. In Libya, while proclaiming the country's liberation from Qaddafi, the President of the National Transitional Council declared that restrictions on polygamy would be removed and divorce prohibited. In Tunisia, several representatives of the new government have issued declarations proposing measures that would violate women's rights.

We therefore call on national authorities to:

6. Enshrine in the constitution, the principle of equality between men and women and the prohibition of all forms of discrimination against women;

7. Reform all laws that discriminate against women, including in the area of the family: marriage, divorce, guardianship, child custody, inheritance, the transfer of nationality to spouses and children and legal capacity; and ensure the full compliance of all legislation with international conventions, in particular the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

On violence against women

During the revolutions and uprisings across the region, there have been numerous reports of violence targeting women, committed by militia, soldiers and police. There have also been reports of violence against women committed by demonstrators.

In Syria, women have been abducted by pro-regime forces to spread fear within the population and there are many reports of rape. In Libya, rape was used as a weapon of war and the stigmatization of victims is such that they are condemned to silence. In Egypt, women participating in the demonstrations have been sexually assaulted by protesters and several women protesters were forced by the army to undergo "virginity tests".

We therefore call on national authorities to:

8. Adopt laws prohibiting all forms of violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence and sexual harassment;

9. Put in place adequate shelters and medical and psychological support services for women victims of violence;

10. Fight impunity of all perpetrators of violence against women, by ensuring effective investigations, prosecution and punishment of these crimes;

11. Ensure that women have full access to justice, including the provision of free legal services and establishing appropriate complaint mechanisms;

12. Ensure that all actors in the justice system (police, judges, lawyers) receive adequate training on laws protecting women from violence and the treatment of victims of such crimes;

13. Adopt preventive measures, including information and education campaigns, to eliminate violence against women.

On education, employment and health

Social and economic demands have been at the heart of protests. Women are the first to be affected by unemployment and financial insecurity.

We therefore call on national authorities to:

14. Establish policies to ensure access for girls and women to education and eradicate illiteracy;

15. Enact laws and policies to reduce high unemployment rates among women, ensure that women and men receive equal pay for work of equal value; combat the gender-based division of labour; and ensure that women have full and equal access to economic resources, including in rural areas;

16. Promote the representation of women in the decision-making bodies of trade unions;

17. Strengthen measures aimed at increasing access of women and girls to adequate health services, particularly with regard to reproductive health.

On implementation of international women's rights protection instruments

While almost all Arab countries have ratified CEDAW, the majority have expressed reservations that go against the very principle of non-discrimination. The provisions of this treaty are widely violated.

We therefore call on national authorities to:

18. Withdraw all reservations to CEDAW.

19. Ratify all international conventions on women's rights and ensure the full implementation of their provisions.

20. Cooperate with UN mechanisms protecting women's rights (including the CEDAW Committee, the Working Group on laws and practices that discriminate against women and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women) and implement their recommendations.

First signatures

Association démocratique des femmes du Maroc (ADFM)

Association tunisienne des femmes démocrates (ATFD)

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS)

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

Coalition of Defenders of Justice for Syria

Collectif des Familles de Disparus en Algérie (CFDA)

Conseil national pour les libertés en Tunisie (CNLT)

Confédération syndicale internationale (CSI)

Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)

Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR)

Egyptian Center for Development

Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux

General Federation of Trade Unions of Palestine

General Federation of Trade Unions of Yemen

Human Rights Information and Training Center - Yemen (HRITC)

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

Kuwait Human Rights Society (KHRS)

Ligue algérienne pour la défense des droits de l'Homme (LADDH)

Ligue tunisienne des droits de l'Homme (LTDH)

New Woman Foundation - Egypt (NWF)

Organisation marocaine des droits humains (OMDH)

Syrian Organization for Human Rights (Sawasiah)

Voice of Libyan Women

Soriyat for Development