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Elimination of discriminatory laws

Drafters should seek to eliminate discrimination against women both by public and private actors in all areas. Drafters should amend or repeal laws that discriminate against women and girls on their face and in practice. Drafters should amend or repeal de jure discriminatory laws that: impose disparate punishments and/or defenses for men and women; impose different standards or requirements for men and women with regard to adultery, extramarital sex, marriage, divorce and other behaviors; allow for or require virginity testing; and deny personal civil status for women. Drafters should also repeal provisions that allow for the reduction of sentences where the perpetrator has discovered that his wife has committed adultery. (See: United Nations Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 28 (¶ 31 stating: “Laws which impose more severe penalties on women than on men for adultery or other offences also violate the requirement of equal treatment”)

In addition, drafters should review legislation for discriminatory impact on women and girls. Specifically, drafters should scrutinize crimes of passion, provocation defenses, and adultery provisions that are gender-neutral but discriminate against women and girls in practice. Drafters should amend laws so as to eliminate any discriminatory impact on women and girls, and they should limit defenses for crimes of passion or provocation by barring their application to cases involving adultery, cases involving “honour”, and domestic femicides. (See: Section on Decriminalization of Adultery and Defenses)

Example: Egypt’s Penal Code punishes a man who commits adultery in the marital residence (Article 237), but punishes a woman who commits adultery in or outside of the marital home (Article 277). (See: Fatma Khafagy, Honour Killing in Egypt, 2005, p. 4) Drafters should decriminalize adultery and repeal this and any similar laws that impose disparate standards or punishments for women and men.  In addition, drafters should review legislation for discriminatory impact on women and girls. Specifically, drafters should scrutinize crimes of passion, provocation defenses, and adultery provisions that are gender-neutral but discriminate against women and girls in practice. Drafters should amend laws so as to eliminate discriminatory impact on women and girls, and they should limit defenses for crimes of passion or provocation by barring their application to adultery, cases involving “honour”, and domestic femicides. See: Section on Defenses.