Family Law Reform

Family Law Reform to Challenge Gender-based Violence: A Global Campaign


Family law is one of the leading factors contributing to the justification of violence against women in developing societies. Often grounded in conservative interpretations of religious texts, these legal codes decrease the security and wellbeing of women and girls, and shield perpetrators from punishment. 

Building on over a decade of work in this area, Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP) is tackling the issue with a research-based advocacy project, Family Law Reform to Challenge Gender-based Violence. This global initiative, developed in collaboration with the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada, will provide grassroots actors with resources and strategies to make change in their communities and societies.

 Family law in Muslim-majority societies governs every aspect of a woman's life - from minimum age and conditions of marriage, to divorce, child custody, and the right to work, travel, or decide on a place of residence. 
— Mahnaz Afkhami, Foreword to Guide to Equality in the Family in the Maghreb

Components of the Project Include:

  • Case studies. The project will work with local women’s groups across 11 countries and facilitate mutual learning about how citizens, activists, and lawmakers can work to reform discriminatory family laws and counter violence against women. The initial phase of the project will include case studies from the following countries: Brazil, Egypt, India, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, Senegal, and Turkey. In each of these countries, WLP has had experience documenting and working to reform laws that impact women’s status and role in public and private life. The case studies will provide a basis for comparative analysis and a road map for a global advocacy effort. Click here for more information on the case study research.
  • A documentary film. To build support for campaigns to end gender-based violence, WLP will produce a documentary film focused on the linkages between violence against women and family laws. It will feature personal stories about the impact of these laws on the lives and security of women, and will look at examples of past successful advocacy campaigns.
  • An online law reform resource center. WLP will gather case studies, a corpus of laws, and other resources related to issues of women’s rights, family laws, and gender-based violence in an easily accessible online database. The collection will include multimedia resources by scholars and activists, and expert analysis of current and proposed legislation.
  • Global and national advocacy campaigns. WLP will contribute to grassroots capacity building, allowing women to mobilize support, initiate legal reform, and transform cultural norms. WLP also will use its global network, consultative status at the United Nations, participation in the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and relationships with other international organizations to establish a cohesive movement around the issue of gender-based violence. 

The Family Law Reform to Challenge Gender-based Violence project will become a powerful engine for collective advocacy against patriarchal violence. Using WLP’s unique curriculum, trainings, and capacity building models, grassroots women can address and amend the root causes of regressive legal codes that impact their lives.


Read more in our Family Law Reform Resources section.

This work is being carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada. 

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Please join us in launching WLP’s global advocacy campaign for our multi-country initiative, Family Law Reform to Challenge Gender Based Violence. We invite you to watch the premiere of our new documentary film and join our discussion on the impact of discriminatory family laws on women and societies around the world. The event will be held on October 10, 2017 at Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington, D.C. 
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