13 Shocking Sexist Laws That Exist In 2018 (If You Can Believe It)

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By the year 2018, you would have thought that equality between men and women would be a given, a right robustly protected by law in every country and exercised in practice — unfortunately, this just isn't the case. Right now, all over the world, there are a ton of shocking sexist laws that are still in place. Many show no sign of going anywhere.

Indeed, laws that restrict women's rights are present in dozens of developed and developing countries worldwide. Collectively, they affect almost every aspect of women's lives. For example, women's reproductive health and rights across the globe are under threat due to various abortion restrictions. Women's economic rights and prospects are repeatedly threatened by laws that prohibit women from obtaining certain jobs and/or require them to seek permission from men to work.

Of course, women's autonomy and right to be free from harm and violence are consistently threatened in any country that refuses to enact laws protecting them from domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

The following examples constitute some of the many ways in which women's rights are still routinely violated in 2018 through sexist laws (or, in some cases, lack of laws needed to counter sexism).

Abortion Is Illegal In All Circumstances

In five countries around the world — Malta, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Vatican City — abortion is illegal in all circumstances, including if the woman's life or health is in danger and/or if the woman became pregnant as a result of rape or incest.

While these countries constitute the most egregious examples, dozens of other countries around the world also severely restrict a woman's right to an abortion. Some of these restrictions include allowing the procedure only in certain circumstances or limiting a woman's ability to access abortion clinics, even in countries where the procedure is legal.

Marital Rape Is Legal

According to a February 2017 report from Equality Now, in at least ten countries around the world, "rape of a woman or girl by her husband is expressly legal." These countries include Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Lesotho, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

The report further noted that, in four of these countries, it is legal to rape a child if she is considered a man's "wife," even if there are laws prohibiting child marriage in that country.

Zero Protections Against Domestic Violence

According to a 2015 World Bank report, in 46 countries around the world, there are no legal protections against domestic violence, meaning that women (and men) have little recourse if their partners abuse them.

It's Legal For Marriage To "Nullify" Rape

According to the aforementioned report from Equality Now, a man who commits rape or sexual assault can avoid punishment if he marries the woman or girl he raped in at least nine countries. These countries include Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Philippines, Tajikistan, and Tunisia. These marriages frequently occur without the consent of the person who was raped.

Moreover, the report also indicates that this avoidance of punishment may also be legally allowable in Greece, Russia, Serbia, and Thailand as well, if "the couple are in a sexual relationship and under the law the girl is otherwise deemed too young to consent to sexual intercourse."

Having To Seek Permission For Employment

According to a 2016 World Bank report, in 18 countries around the world, married women cannot get a job without their husband's permission.

Women Not Being Able To Work

The same World Bank Report revealed some startlingly sexist job restrictions placed on women around the world. For example:

Child Marriage Is Legal

According to a 2016 Pew Study, child marriage is legal in at least 117 countries around the world — including the United States.

Legalized child marriage vastly disproportionately affects girls, who are often married off to older men. According to the World Economic Forum, girls who marry as children face many disadvantages — they are less likely to complete their education, more likely to experience complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and more likely to face domestic violence, among other issues.

Having To Seek Permission For Divorce

In Israel, divorce cases among Jewish citizens are heard by rabbinical courts. According to The Economist, divorce cases typically "invariably need the male partner's say-so" and only rarely does a rabbinical court conclude that a husband is "unreasonably denying a divorce."

Thus, women are essentially required to seek their husband's permission to secure a divorce and, if their husband does not desire a divorce, they face extensive challenges in obtaining one.

Women Can't Pass Their Nationality To Their Children

According to the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, in 25 countries around the world, mothers are "prevent[ed] from passing their nationality to their children on an equal basis with fathers." These restrictions not only violate women's rights, but also often result in extreme hardship for them and their families, as they severely limit educational and economic opportunities for children.

Saudi Arabia's Male Guardianship Laws

While Saudi Arabia has recently made some changes to its highly regressive male guardianship laws, the country still requires all women to have a male "guardian." Guardians can be any male family member, including a woman's son.

Women need a male guardian's permission to engage in a variety of activities, including, but not limited to, studying abroad and/or traveling outside Saudi Arabia, applying for a passport, getting married, or leaving prison.

Rapists' Parental Rights

In the U.S., seven states do not have any laws that prevent rapists from attaining parental rights to a child conceived through rape. Moreover, even in states that have laws prohibiting rapists from securing parental rights, a rape conviction is often required in order for survivors to be offered this protection.

Since, securing a rape conviction can often be incredibly challenging, many women are still not protected from having to co-parent with their rapist if the latter decides to seek parental rights.

Permission To Leave The House

The aforementioned World Bank report also revealed that, in 17 countries, married women need their husband's permission to travel outside their home.

For example, according to the Lily, in Egypt the applicable law reads:

[A] married woman "can leave the house only for purposes allowed by law or custom, otherwise she needs her husband's permission or she loses her right to financial support."

Stopped From Buying Alcohol

In Sri Lanka, women cannot legally buy alcohol or work in places that produce or sell alcohol. Sri Lanka's health minister has said that the ban is in place to protect the country's "cultural and moral values."

According to the Associated Press, however, many Sri Lankan businesses have ignored the legal ban and employed women in places that serve alcoholic beverages.

Unfortunately, this list spotlights just a few of the many, many sexist laws around the world that infringe on women's rights and detrimentally affect women's lives. There is clearly much work that still needs to be done to ensure that women are treated and respected as equals to men in many countries around the world.