Family Law Reform to Challenge Gender-Based Violence: A Research and Knowledge-Based Advocacy Project
Although gender-based violence (GBV) is endemic globally, some of the highest rates in the world are found in Muslim-majority countries where conservative interpretations of Islamic Family Law persist. Such interpretations often lead to and justify practices such as early child and forced marriage, loss of guardianship by the mother of her children, prohibition of women from initiating divorce, the practice of honour killing, and the right of parents and family members to control the bodies of their spouses, daughters, and female relatives, including the practice of female genital mutilation. As a result, any solution to GBV must address both legislation and cultural understanding if legal reform is to succeed. Such a solution must involve the promotion of moderate interpretations of Islamic Law, by women, women's groups, and other civil society organizations, to challenge the authority of fundamentalist religious authorities and others. This project aims to empower women by informing them about Islamic Family Law, and to provide more moderate interpretations of these laws to protect their human rights as well as to prevent and overcome GBV. This proposed research and advocacy project on GBV will be led by the Lebanon-based Women's Learning Partnership (WLP), building on its 15-year history of research and advocacy training on combating gender-based violence in more than 50 countries. The project seeks to (1) challenge GBV through research and the development of locally-led new knowledge on how to reform Family Law in Muslim-majority countries; (2) use the research as a basis for effective national advocacy against GBV; and (3) build a global advocacy network, the first of its kind, for those who experience GBV justified in the name of religion. The countries of focus will be Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, West Bank and Gaza, Morocco, Mauritania, Pakistan, Senegal, and India (where Muslims are a minority). WLP's wide-scale partnership with well-established organizations located in countries with Muslim majorities in the Global South and India will enable it to reach the widest number of beneficiaries and provide culturally specific, effective solutions for countering GBV. The organization's long history of work with international organizations, including the United Nations and the World Bank, will also allow it to effectively mobilize the international community in support of a global advocacy campaign against GBV.