The 5 biggest wins for women's rights in 2014.



Every day, thousands of women and girls are abused and murdered by their families, raped in armed conflicts and attacked for defending women’s rights.

But while the facts and figures show us that the battle for gender equality is far from over, here are five wins from 2014 that show us how things can change if we don’t stop fighting for women’s rights.

1. Changing the law on rape in Morocco.

In January, the Moroccan parliament voted unanimously to change its rape law so that rapists can no longer escape punishment by forcing their victims to marry them. It followed tireless campaigning for the family of Amina Filali (pictured), who killed herself in March 2012 after being forced by law to marry a man she said had raped her. Similar laws still exist in Tunisia and Algeria with Amina’s tragic death highlighting the urgent need for these discriminatory and traumatic laws to change.

Copyright Reuters: Lahecen El-Filali (L) holds a photo of his daughter, Amina El-Filali, as he attends a news conference with his wife Zahera Lmealme and his other daughter, Hamida, in Rabat March 21, 2012. Sixteen-year-old Amina killed herself near the northern city of Larache by swallowing rat poison after a six-month forced marriage to the man who raped her.

Amnesty International activists in Morocco protest against Article 475 of the Penal Code and other provisions that discriminate against women, May 2013. Until its amendment in January 2014, Article 475 allowed rapists to walk free if they married their teenage victims.


2. A million voices for Meriam.

In June, Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian who had been sentenced to death in Sudan, was finally released from jail and landed in Europe back into the arms of her family. She had been charged with adultery, allegedly after relatives reported her to authorities for her marriage to a Christian man. In February, the court added the charge of apostasy when Meriam told the court that she had been raised by her mother as an Orthodox Christian. She was given just three days to renounce her Christian faith or she would be sentenced to death, an option Meriam rejected. She was eight months pregnant when she was charged, and was forced to give birth in chains. Meriam’s sentence provoked outrage from the international Sudanese community, the United Nations, and governments around the world with more than a million people signing a petition calling for her release.

Photo credit AFP/Getty Images: Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, a 27-year-old Christian Sudanese woman sentenced to hang for apostasy, sits in her cell a day after she gave birth to a baby girl at a women’s prison in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman on May 28, 2014.

3. Li Yan’s death sentence overturned in China.

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court in China overturned the death sentence of Li Yan for the murder of her violent husband after enduring months of domestic abuse. The prolonged violence Li Yan suffered at the hands of her husband began soon after the couple married in early 2009.  Tan Yong frequently beat his wife. He stubbed out cigarettes on her face. He locked her, near-naked, on the balcony of their apartment for hours at a time during the freezing Sichuan winter. On one occasion, he cut off her finger. Li’s case has shone a spotlight on the need for the Chinese authorities to do more to prevent violence against women and properly investigate claims of abuse and prosecute those responsible. Li Yan remains in prison, awaiting a retrial.


 Amnesty International Hong Kong section have a solidarity action for Li Yan, called Fai Chun (Chinese greeting banner in red) for Justice, outside the Liaison Office of China, 8 February 2013.

A woman volunteer sits on the ground outside Sichuan Provincial Higher People’s Court, the protest sign says “I do not want to be the next Li Yan”, Chengdu city, Sichuan province, China, January 2013.

4. Outpouring of support to end El Salvador’s abortion ban.

El Salvador has a total ban on abortion. This ban extends to cases of rape, incest, where the pregnancy could harm the mother or where the foetus would not survive outside the womb. Women and girls found guilty of having an abortion face between two to eight years in jail. Medical practitioners also face prison sentences of up to 12 years if found to be providing access to abortion services. In the lead up to El Salvador’s review at the United Nations in October, women and girls across El Salvador held protests to demand an end to the ban. Local youth groups staged theatre events, made speeches and played music dedicated to 17 women jailed for pregnancy-related issues. As a result, El Salvador came under pressure from nine countries at the UN to amend its repressive and out-dated abortion laws. A further 12 countries raised concerns about the continued discrimination against women in the country. El Salvador will now have time to consider the recommendations put forward and will announce which of them it will adopt in March 2015.


The El Salvador launch of Amnesty International’s ‘My Body, My Rights’ report where activists renewed calls for the country to its ban on abortion.

5. Malala awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In October, Education rights campaigner and Amnesty ambassador of conscience Malala Yousafzai and Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. “The work of Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai represents the struggle of millions of children around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. “This is an award for human rights defenders who are willing to dedicate themselves entirely to promoting education and the rights of the world’s most vulnerable children.” Just a few years ago, at the age of 14, Malala became a household name after she was gunned down on a school bus by the Taliban. Malala was shot point blank in the head for simply asking for the right for all girls to go to school.

Through her story Malala has raised global awareness of girls’ education – on behalf of the 32 million girls globally who aren’t at school. Malala returned to the classroom as soon as she could – a day she described as the most important day of her life. She dreams of one day becoming a doctor.

Malala Yousafzai – speaking at Ambassador of Conscience Award Ceremony Dublin September 2014. Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl shot and almost killed by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ education, presented with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience award.

What was your most significant moment in 2014?