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.