5. Key actors for reform

Chapters 2, 3 and 4 have discussed some of the legal reforms and initiatives undertaken in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia to enhance women’s participation in the labour force and to move towards greater equality for women and men in their families and in society.

These chapters and their case studies show that legal reform is a complex undertaking, involving many stakeholders. Parliaments, the media, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) are all important players in reform and need support in areas ranging from advocacy to drafting and implementing legislation.

This chapter provides information about how these key actors contribute to the law-making process in MENA. This entails building the evidence base for gender equality legislation; including gender concerns during the law-drafting process; and supporting the adoption of the law. The chapter also looks at how these institutions are involved in implementing and enforcing gender equality legislation. In addition, the chapter analyses how the media contributes to changing restrictive social norms and stereotypes, and plays a crucial role in disseminating information about reforms.

The chapter features three case studies from Morocco on parliaments, NHRIs and the media, as well as boxes with detailed information on these institutions in Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia. The report has tried to balance the number of case studies per country overall, but this has not been possible in all the chapters. While there is no specific case study on CSOs, their important role is evident in the many case studies throughout this publication. The case studies examine how and why the reforms came about, the actors involved and how the reforms are being/will be implemented, as well as highlighting key success factors. The information shared in the case studies has been discussed extensively with stakeholders in the respective countries (Annex A at the end of the report contains a list of resource persons in each country; Annexes B, C and D describe the methodological process). The chapter also includes in-depth boxes based on desk review.1 The chapter concludes with some policy recommendations based on the lessons from the case studies and research.

Parliaments play an essential role in developing, implementing and evaluating gender equality legislation. While there is a need to mainstream a gender equality perspective in different types of legislation, specific skills are also required to develop legislation that is focused specifically on women’s economic empowerment. In addition, it is necessary to remove discriminatory provisions that exist in the four countries’ legislation, including personal status legislation.

Adopting gender equality legislation is a complex and often time-consuming process since it is a political exercise and requires specialist knowledge to get it right. There are specific strategies/approaches that may aid its adoption:

  • Support for drafting legislation: The first step is to make sure that gender equality principles are taken into account while drafting legislation. Specific skills are needed to draft gender equality legislation so that it reflects international standards ratified by the country (Chapter 6).

    When a draft law is discussed in parliament, parliamentarians also need the right skills to assess it from a gender perspective. In this way, they can take informed decisions on whether or not to adopt the legislation. For example, parliamentarians in Morocco have been trained in gender-sensitive budgeting so that they have the right knowledge and skills to analyse and comment on the gender report submitted annually as an annex to the finance law.2 Similar training in law drafting can enhance the results.

    Some guidance exists on how to draft gender equality legislation. For example, the UN Women’s Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women offers guidance, models and checklists for drafting legislation on violence against women (Box 4.4, Chapter 4). In Tunisia, stakeholders used this handbook to draft the comprehensive law on violence against women (VAW) and also received guidance from international organisations on bringing the law into line with international standards on VAW (Case Study 4.4, Chapter 4).

    Parliaments can also ask national human rights institutions to study a draft law and make recommendations on whether it is in line with gender equality principles enshrined in the constitution. For example, in response to a request from parliament, the Moroccan National Human Rights Council (CNDH) issued an assessment and recommendations on the draft law for domestic workers (Case Study 3.1, Chapter 3).

    Since parliamentarians have such an important role in developing gender equality legislation, training can be organised with the support of international organisations. In Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, the MENA-OECD Governance Programme has conducted training for selected female parliamentarians and local councillors on gender analysis of draft legislation and measures to promote more gender-sensitive parliaments.

  • Setting up gender equality parliamentary committees: These are key mechanisms to support parliaments in designing legislation for women’s economic empowerment. These committees may have different mandates but one of their main roles is to examine selected draft legislation from a gender equality perspective. They can also lobby for the adoption of gender equality legislation. The lobbying process is often performed in close co-operation with civil society organisations and national women’s machineries.

    Around two-thirds of OECD countries have put in place gender equality parliamentary committees (OECD, 2019[1]). In all four countries covered by the publication, gender equality parliamentary committees exist, but in different forms. For example, Jordan has a Parliamentary Committee on Women (Box 5.1), Tunisia has a Parliamentary Committee on Social Affairs and Public Health, and Egypt has a Parliamentary Social Solidarity Committee. Morocco has a Thematic Group of Parliamentarians for Parity and Equality (GTPPE) which does not yet have the status of a committee, but in reality performs similar tasks (Case Study 5.1). It is also important that other types of parliamentary committees work on gender equality legislation. For example, the Tunisian manifesto to unleash female entrepreneurship (Chapter 2) recommends including a female entrepreneur perspective into parliament’s financial and economic commissions.

  • Gender-balanced parliaments: Important factors that influence the passing of gender equality legislation include support from the ruling party, as well as support from female parliamentarians (Palmieri, 2011[2]),3 since they are often more sensitive to gender-related issues than their male counterparts. Chapter 1 indicates that while the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments has increased significantly in the MENA countries since the 1990s, the MENA average is still lower than the OECD average. Enhancing gender equality in parliaments is important in order to reflect different social perspectives. In Morocco, the GTPPE successfully lobbied for the integration of gender in its parliament’s internal rules. The rules now mention that at least one-third of the members of decision-making organs of the chamber of representatives should be women (Case Study 5.1). Box 5.2 contains some resources to help parliaments improve their gender sensitivity and balance.

  • Overseeing legislation: A number of recently approved laws that promote women’s economic empowerment mandate implementing agencies to submit annual progress reports to parliament. In Tunisia, the VAW law mandates the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Family, Children and Seniors to submit an annual progress report to parliament on implementation (Case Study 4.4, Chapter 4). Relevant Moroccan Government institutions all have to contribute to the annual progress report on gender budgeting that is submitted to parliament together with the annual finance bill.

As mentioned in the introduction, gender-focused parliamentary bodies are key mechanisms to support parliaments in achieving gender equality legislation.

Although Morocco currently does not have a permanent parliamentary committee focusing on gender, it does have the Thematic Group of Parliamentarians for Parity and Equality (GTPPE), which performs similar tasks. This case study analyses how the work of this group has contributed to gender equality legislation in Morocco.

The GTPPE was officially created in 2015. It was established by a group of like-minded female parliamentarians who realised they wanted to fight for the same cause – more gender equality in parliaments across party lines. It consists of 15 parliamentarians from 8 parliamentary groups of both government and the opposition. The president rotates every six months and all political parties get the opportunity to preside over the group. Its members were all renewed for the 2017-2022 parliamentary term.

The group has an action plan for the duration of the whole parliamentary session. Activities include analysing draft laws for gender equality; suggesting how to better take into align legislation with gender guarantees in the constitution and international commitments on gender; lobbying for the adoption of gender equality laws across different political groups and assessing the gender-sensitivity of public policies. In addition, the group produces reports and guidebooks for newly elected women parliamentarians.4 The group is working closely with civil society and the media to promote women’s rights. UN Women has been building the capacity of the group in the different areas of its mandate.

The work of the group has been recognised for its important results in a variety of areas while working across party lines:

  • It has helped to increase gender sensitivity in parliament. The group successfully lobbied for the integration of gender in parliament’s internal rules. The rules now state that at least one-third of the members of decision-making organs of the House of Representatives should be women.

  • It has contributed to gender equality legislation. The group carried out a gender analysis of the draft organic finance law and made proposals to make gender budgeting and gender mainstreaming mandatory. The group analysed the three draft laws on regions, provinces/prefectures and municipalities and made recommendations on including more women in local government. This led to further results on the gender front in the run-up to the 2015 municipal elections. For example, the law5 governing the election of members of local councils was reformed and now states that a minimum of 27% of local council members should be women (as opposed to 12% which was applied in the 2009 elections) (OECD, 2017[9]; UN Women, 2017[10]).

  • It has contributed to better integration of newly elected women parliamentarians through its guidebooks.

  • The work of the group gained visibility at the international level when it organised side-events at the 60th and 62nd edition of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UN Women, 2016[11]). In addition, in the framework of a European Union project, women parliamentarians from Morocco had the opportunity to exchange experiences with women parliamentarians from different European countries. A new EU project is underway to support the Moroccan Parliament and gender will be included as a cross-cutting theme.

These results were achieved despite the fact that the group does not have the status of an official parliamentary commission, which means that its powers are limited. The group is currently lobbying to change the internal regulations of the parliament so that it can become a permanent commission. The President of the parliament is supportive to the cause of the group and has given them an office inside parliament.

In addition, most of the groups’ members are women. It would be advisable to include more men in the group to reflect different views and give the group an even stronger presence in parliament.

The media plays an essential role in shaping and promoting social and cultural norms, including gender stereotypes. Gender-neutral images of women and men in the media are important for promoting women’s economic empowerment, eradicating gender discrimination and eliminating violence against women. In addition, the media plays an important role in letting the public know about recent legal reforms that support women’s economic empowerment. The media can also hold governments to account for their actions, including by communicating about whether the government is adequately addressing women’s economic empowerment through legal reforms and if/how these reforms are being implemented.

Yet one global study indicates that women make up only 24% of “the persons heard, read about or seen in newspaper, television and radio news” (WACC, 2015[12]). In Morocco, this figure stands at 20% (HACA, 2017[13]), and in Tunisia and Jordan women’s appearance in the media does not exceed 11 and 9% respectively (HAICA, 2017[14]). Analysis indicates that in Morocco, stereotypes that perpetuate gender discrimination are still widespread in the media. The vast majority of commercials show women confined to the domestic sphere in their role as wife and mother while men are associated with the public space. Women are often pictured as vulnerable and dependant while men are portrayed as strong and autonomous (HACA, 2016[15]).

As early as 1995, the Beijing Declaration included “women and the media” as one of its 12 critical areas of action. The platform called for “increased participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication” as well as for “balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media” (UN, 1995[16]). Article 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) also prohibits gender stereotypes.

This section analyses the initiatives that countries are taking to increase gender equality in the media sector. These initiatives include building the evidence base on the need to change women’s portrayal in the media, as well as reforms that oblige media institutions to show more gender-neutral media content and to show more women leaders in the media (Box 5.3).

The initiatives show that the traditional media landscape in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia is increasingly sensitive to gender equality issues. In addition, social media is booming in the MENA region. The majority (63%) of Arab youth say they look first to Facebook and Twitter for news (Radcliffe and Bruni, 2019[17]). Almost 70% of women in MENA have Internet access and 86% are active on social media.6 Interviews for this publication revealed that social media plays an important role in empowering women in the region. It provides a platform where women can openly share their views and aspire to greater economic empowerment, driven by their exposure to powerful female role models who are active on social media. Women’s rights campaigns on social media reach many women in the region and social media has played a major role in breaking the taboos around violence against women.

Building the evidence base. A first step in promoting women’s economic empowerment through the media is documenting the situation of women in the media. Morocco is considered a leading country in this regard (Case Study 5.2), investing strongly in building and maintaining an evidence base on the situation of women in the media through their participation in the Global Media Monitoring Project, through specific studies and through putting into place the National Observatory for the Improvement of Women's Image in the Media.

Mainstreaming gender awareness. Gender concerns should be institutionalised and included in the policy documents guiding the work of media institutions. In Morocco, some media institutions have mainstreamed gender concerns in their policy documents, while others have adopted separate gender charters. More recently, gender concerns have been mainstreamed in the law on audio-visual communication and in the law governing the High Authority for Audio-visual Communication (HACA). The laws do not just encourage the media to take gender concerns into account – they also include complaint mechanisms that can be filed even by individuals and sanctions in case of non-compliance (Case Study 5.2). In Tunisia, the legal framework mandates the High Authority for Audio-visual Communication (HAICA) to take gender into account (Box 5.3). The Tunisian law on VAW mentions that media should sensitise the wider public about violence against women and girls and that media content that can be detrimental to the image of women is prohibited (Case Study 4.4). Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation has issued regulations, obliging media outlets and social media to ban negative gender stereotypes and ensure a diverse coverage of women’s views. Failure to comply with this requirement can result in the revocation of licenses (Box 5.3).

Showing more women leaders in the media. The Moroccan High Authority for Audio-visual Communication has issued a decision encouraging audio-visual communication services to guarantee at least one-third of female participation in programmes during the electoral period. Morocco’s HACA has a monitoring system in place that can measure diversity in the media (Alsalhi, 2019[26]). Egypt’s recent media regulations encourage diverse coverage of women’s views, news and their engagement in social, political and cultural affairs. Online platforms have been launched in Tunisia and Morocco to link female experts and journalists so that more women are invited as experts to speak in the media.

Involving trade unions. Trade unions play an important role in pushing for greater gender equality in the media. In Morocco, a gender and media council was set up within the press trade union. In Egypt, a women’s committee was created within the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) and a Union of Media Women was set up which was awarded for its leadership in the media sector (Box 5.3).

Publicising reforms. The media also plays an important role in informing people about legal and institutional reforms. It can be very difficult to obtain the actual text of legislation or to get correct information about reform implementation. Countries should make further efforts to disseminate popular versions of important recent legal reforms adapted to the target group so that the people concerned by the reforms are aware of the details.

The issue of gender stereotyping and gender discrimination in the media is twofold. Firstly, there is the issue of how women and men are portrayed in the media, which can lead to gender discrimination. Secondly, the way in which women and men are portrayed in the media is often influenced by who is actually working in the media. When more women work as media professionals, they are more inclined to show other women professionals and experts in the media and may be more sensitive to gender-related issues.

Morocco has addressed both of these issues through a range of innovative initiatives at different levels, ranging from advocacy and building the evidence base to gender policies for broadcasters and specific provisions in media legislation. The country is definitely a pioneer on this topic in the region and beyond, and is already sharing its experiences with other countries.

Inspired by the Beijing Platform for Action provisions on women and the media, in 2005 Morocco adopted a National Charter for the Improvement of the Image of Women in the Media (Lamhaidi, 2007[27]). The launch of the charter created momentum for different media organisations together with civil society and other stakeholders to further reflect on the way women are portrayed in the media and to decide what actions could be taken to improve the situation. A variety of initiatives took off:

  • Institutionalising gender awareness. A project for the institutionalisation of gender equality in the media was led by the Ministry of Communication. In addition, a gender and media council was set up within the press trade union. Some of Morocco’s most important broadcasters7 have included gender concerns in their guiding documents.8 In 2015, the Ministry of Solidarity, Social Development, Equality and Family established a National Observatory for the Improvement of Women's Image in the Media, as set out in the 2005 charter (Moroccan Ministry of Solidarity, Social Development, Equality and Family, 2015[28]). The observatory consists of representatives from the government, civil society and research centres and has the mandate to contribute to the evidence base on women’s image in the media, using specific indicators.

  • Legislating for gender awareness. The 2013 law on press and printing media includes provisions forbidding media content that denigrates women, perpetuates discrimination against women, or promotes negative gender stereotypes.9 In 2016 a new law on audio-visual communication took effect, which includes important provisions on gender discrimination and stereotyping in the media.10 The law prohibits advertising that contains elements of discrimination based on sex. Audio-visual communication operators must promote gender equality and fight against discrimination based on sex, including stereotypes that undermine women’s dignity. Audio-visual programmes cannot incite violence against women, exploitation or harassment, or undermine women’s dignity.

    Another 2016 law reorganised the High Authority for Audio-visual Communication (HACA).11 This institution is in charge of regulating the audio-visual communication sector in Morocco. The new law indicates that HACA should contribute to the promotion of a culture of equality and parity between men and women and should combat all forms of discrimination and stereotypical images undermining women’s dignity.

  • Increasing women’s media presence. In 2016 HACA encouraged audio-visual communication services to guarantee that at least one-third of presenters were women during the electoral period (HACA, 2016[29]). This decision should ensure that women are associated with leadership in politics and that political debate takes gender equality into consideration. Since 2007, HACA has been using its monitoring system (HMS) to measure diversity in the media. This system has inspired other countries and has been replicated in Belgium and a range of African countries (HACA, 2017[30]).

  • Allowing for complaints and sanctions. Since 2016, individuals can file a complaint on the HACA website regarding violation of the laws and regulations governing the audio-visual communication sector.12 Sanctions are foreseen when there is a serious violation of the legislation.13 Previously, only political parties and associations could file complaints. So far, not many official complaints have been received regarding the violation of the law’s gender equality provisions. HACA reports that they are still learning about what types of gender-based discrimination is occurring in the media.

  • Supporting implementation. HACA started a new project in 2017, in collaboration with UNESCO and UN Women, to raise awareness of the 2016 legislation and to sensitise media content producers on the law (UN Women, 2017[31]). The public TV broadcaster 2M has also launched an annual competition for the commercial that best promotes gender equality (Taleb, 2018[32]). This broadcaster has also started an online platform to link Moroccan female experts and journalists so that more women are invited as experts to speak in the media.14

    In 2019, the Ministry of Culture and Communication, supported by the EU, issued a manual to combat gender stereotypes in the Moroccan media (Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, 2019[33]) and to support the implementation of the recent legal reforms by guiding media professionals to apply a gender lens in their daily work.

There are several factors behind the success of Morocco’s initiatives:

  • Collaboration among a variety of actors right from the beginning, including civil society, trade unions, relevant ministries and media actors.

  • Strong leadership. The Ministry of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development led the efforts that resulted in the national charter on the image of women in the media. HACA was also strongly influenced by the advocacy efforts of civil society organisations (such as the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women, ADFM) on gender equality in the media.

  • Strong investment in building an evidence base on the situation of women in the media. This was achieved through participation in the Global Media Monitoring Project, through specific studies and through the establishment of the National Observatory for the Improvement of Women's Image in the Media.

  • Institutionalising gender concerns. Gender awareness has been included in the policy documents guiding the work of a range of media institutions. Some have adopted separate gender charters. Gender concerns have also been mainstreamed in the new law on audio-visual communication and in the law governing HACA.

  • Sanctions mechanisms and sensitisation. The laws do not just encourage the media to take gender concerns into account – they also include complaint mechanisms and sanctions for non-compliance. In order to achieve impact, innovative sensitisation efforts are underway to ensure the law’s provisions are clearly understood by different stakeholders who may not necessarily be familiar with gender equality. In addition, a manual on combating gender stereotyping will support media professionals to apply a gender lens in their daily work.

While these laws guarantee freedom of audio-visual communication, in line with the freedom of expression guaranteed in the Moroccan Constitution, they also set limits to this freedom of expression when this freedom enters into conflict with the concept of gender equality and non-discrimination, which is also guaranteed in the Moroccan Constitution. There has been extensive debate and research worldwide about competing human rights, in particular on the limits of freedom of expression. The limits that are set on certain rights and freedoms differ from country to country. Often, is it also a matter of interpretation, and a judge will have the final say when cases involving competing human rights reach court.

Human rights institutions, at both international and national levels, play a key role in making sure that women’s rights not only exist on paper, but that they also become a reality.

In terms of international enforcement mechanisms on women’s rights, an important mechanism is the optional protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (Box 6.1). While all four countries have ratified CEDAW, only Morocco and Tunisia have ratified CEDAW’s optional protocol, which allows the CEDAW treaty body, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, to receive complaints from individuals or inquire into grave or systematic violations of the convention. A complaint mechanism helps to give “teeth” to human rights provisions and protects people from human rights violations. There have not yet been any individual complaints or inquiries in Morocco or Tunisia, however.

At the national level, national human rights institutions (NHRIs) play a key role in making sure that human rights are upheld, including women’s rights. In many countries, women face unique and extensive challenges when it comes to guaranteeing their rights. Hence protecting and promoting women’s rights is an important part of NHRIs’ mandates.

MENA countries vary in how their NHRIs are structured and organised, and these institutions have been operating with varying levels of success (Box 5.4.). In the four countries, gender concerns are mainstreamed across a range of organisations. Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights, Jordan’s National Centre for Human Rights, Tunisia’s Comité Supérieur des Droits de l’Homme et des Libertés Fondamentales and Morocco’s National Council for Human Rights all have generic human rights mandates.

Case Study 5.3 describes Morocco’s efforts and challenges in setting up a national human rights institution that promotes gender equality and addresses gender discrimination. Other MENA countries face similar challenges in setting up important NHRIs. While the Egyptian Constitution foresees the creation of a Human Rights Commission that will cover gender equality and religious minority issues, this commission has not yet been set up. In Tunisia, the constitution (Art. 118 onwards) foresees the establishment of a Constitutional Court, and a 2015 law15 provides further details on this court. One of the important functions of the court would be to assess laws against the constitution, including the gender equality guarantees foreseen in the constitution. However, the court has not yet been set up.

While Morocco’s National Council for Human Rights (CNDH) already has the mandate to promote and protect human rights,16 it was decided to create a new NHRI in Morocco, the Authority for Parity and the Fight Against All Forms of Discrimination (APALD). Its creation was foreseen in the 2011 constitution, and there was also a need to focus more on the promotion and protection of women’s rights specifically. Although a law entered into force regulating APALD in 2017, it has not yet been established. This case study documents the process of developing the law and examines the challenges which remain and which hinder its implementation.

The 2011 Moroccan Constitution includes the principle of gender equality. Article 19 states that men and women are granted equal civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights and liberties. The article also mentions that the state will undertake gender equality actions and foresees the creation of the Authority for Parity and the Fight against All Forms of Discrimination (APALD).

A draft law was developed to further detail APALD’s mandate. The process was led by the Ministry of Solidarity, Social Development, Equality and the Family (MSSDEF) in consultation with the Inter-ministerial Delegation of Human Rights (DIDH). An independent and multidisciplinary committee (comité scientifique) was set up to consult widely on what the draft APALD law should look like.17 This committee organised meetings with key informants and received written suggestions from a range of stakeholders. The committee also looked into international best practices in institutionalising gender equality. In 2013, the committee issued a draft law on the establishment of APALD.

The draft law was submitted to a specialised legal commission of the Council of Europe (Council of Europe, 2013[37]) and afterwards to various national structures. Parliament then requested the advice of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE) as well as of CNDH.18 Both organisations issued extensive analysis and recommendations on the draft law (see next section).19 In parallel, civil society and human rights defenders created the Coalition for the Application of Art. 19 of the Constitution, which advocated for taking into account the advice of CESE and CNDH and for making the required modifications to the draft law.

After years of intense debate, the law entered into force in 2017,20 but was criticised by various stakeholders since it did not take into account most of the recommendations of CESE and CNDH. In 2017, 84 members of the House of Representatives seized the Constitutional Court with a request to investigate whether the draft law was in line with the constitution. The court ruled that the draft law is in line with the constitution.

The law foresees that APALD is an independent institution. It has a mandate to promote and protect the values of equity, equality and non-discrimination in the following areas (Art. 2):

  • Give advice on draft laws and regulations and provide recommendations on bringing national legislative frameworks in line with international conventions that fall within its mandate.

  • Evaluate public policies and the efforts of public and private sector actors to make the principles of equity, equality and non-discrimination a reality.

  • Provide recommendations or proposals to strengthen and disseminate the values of equity, equality and non-discrimination as well as to implement these values in all aspects of public life.

  • Disseminate good practices on equity and equality and encourage their implementation in the national context.

  • Contribute to the inclusion of a culture of equality and non-discrimination in education, training, media and cultural programmes.

  • Provide technical assistance on the effective implementation of principles of equity and equality and build the capacity of different stakeholders on equity, equality and non-discrimination.

  • Receive and examine complaints on discrimination submitted by victims of discrimination and provide recommendations to the competent authorities and watch over the follow-up provided by these authorities on the complaint cases.

  • Observe and follow up on the types of discrimination against women, issue recommendations and propose measures to redress the situation.

  • Collect and analyse quantitative and qualitative data, draft and publish studies, measure the degree of respect of the principles of equity, equality and non-discrimination in the different aspects of public life and publish the conclusions.

  • Establish partnerships and cooperate with other institutions at national, regional and international level.

The law mentions that APALD would consist of a president and 24 members from different institutions: one magistrate; one member of the High Council of Ulema; three experts; two representatives from the Council of the Moroccan community living abroad; four representatives of trade unions; one representative of employer organisations; six representatives of civil society; two representatives of public administration; and four parliamentarians.

Even though the framework for setting up APALD has been in place since early 2017, the institution has not yet been established. Since APALD is not yet in place, we cannot say what impact it is having on women’s economic empowerment. However, it is possible to analyse the provisions of the law and see whether APALD’s mandate and functions are adequate to promote and protect women’s rights.

While extensive consultation processes were organised in the process of establishing the law, not all of the recommendations that came out of these consultations were taken into account. While drafting laws often involves making compromises, it is important to respect the Paris Principles for the protection and promotion of human rights (see Box 5.4) and make sure that the APALD law is fully in line with these principles. The paragraphs below assess the law against those principles:

  • Independence is not guaranteed. While the law specifies that APALD is an independent institution, it also indicates that its members are appointed based on the fact that they are “representatives” of their organisations rather than on their personal competences in the area of gender equity, equality and non-discrimination. In addition, the law only foresees for a limited number of APALD members from civil society.

  • APALD’s mandate is not clearly defined in the law. Though the law states the mandate is to promote and protect the values of equity, equality and non-discrimination, these values are not defined. The law also does not specify that APALD should only focus on gender equality issues, leading to confusion over how APALD positions itself relative to the mandates of other national human rights institutions and the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH) in particular.

  • Co-operation with local organisations is not established. The law mentions that APALD should establish partnerships and co-operate with other institutions at the national, regional and international level. However, it does not mention local co-operation. It would be important for APALD to also work closely with local authorities to co-ordinate on discrimination cases in different parts of the country. Each local authority should set up a local advisory body in charge of gender equality at local level. APALD should work closely with these local advisory bodies to make sure that discrimination cases are adequately addressed and that there is co-ordination between the national and local levels.

  • APALD needs stronger protection functions. It has the authority to promote and protect the values of equity, equality and non-discrimination in different ways, which is in line with the Paris Principles. APALD is mandated to receive and examine discrimination complaints, provide recommendations to the competent authorities, and monitor the follow-up to the complaint cases. However, the law should also give APALD the power to investigate discrimination cases, issue injunctions or impose sanctions.

  • There is no mention of an annual report. Article 160 of the Constitution foresees that national human rights institutions should issue a yearly activity report that should be debated in parliament. The APALD law does not mention such a report. This would be important so as to hold APALD accountable.

APALD’s mandate should clarify that it is in charge of issues related to gender equity, gender equality and non-discrimination based on sex, while CNDH is in charge of equity, equality and non-discrimination in other domains.

It would be important for APALD to partner with the High Authority for Audio-visual Communication (HACA). Case Study 5.2 provides more details about HACA and its mandate to combat all forms of discrimination based on sex and stereotyping in the audio-visual communication sector of Morocco. HACA also allows for individuals to file complaints – APALD could play an important role in supporting HACA in following up on these complaints.

MSSDEF has reported that the next step would be for the King to designate the APALD President.

While the constitutions of all four countries guarantee freedom of association, the actual scope of civic space shows some differences and civil society organisations (CSOs), including those working on women’s economic empowerment report some restrictions. Box 5.5 and Figure 5.1 describe the situation on the basis of commonly used international governance indicators. International indicators show that civil liberties have increased in Tunisia. In Tunisia, significant improvements in the implementation of freedom of speech and freedom of association are some of the most valued achievements that followed in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Jordan and Morocco have also made important headway and rank above the MENA average on voice and accountability through their participation in the Open Government Partnership21.

Despite these difficulties, CSOs have been crucial actors in the legal reform processes for women’s economic empowerment and the implementation of these reforms in all four countries. Many reforms only happened because civil society had been advocating for change for many years.

The case studies show that CSOs are active at all stages of legal reform:

  • Building the evidence base. Firstly, CSOs often participate in building the evidence base by documenting a specific aspect of women’s economic empowerment. They are in a unique position to perform this task, since they are often close to the people directly concerned by an envisaged reform. For example, the Jordanian civil society organisation SADAQA worked on building the evidence base for amendments to enhance childcare options in the labour code. These proposals became law through the 2019 labour law amendments (Case Study 2.4). Tunisia’s COLIBE committee built on years of analysis from civil society organisations to come up with the proposals in its report, including on equal inheritance for women and men (Case Study 4.1).

  • Drafting laws and lobbying for their adoption. Based on their research, CSOs sometimes propose the text of a draft law in support of women’s economic empowerment. For example, in Tunisia, civil society was involved in the drafting process of the law to address all forms of violence against women and girls (Case Study 4.1). In Egypt, several civil society groups submitted drafts for an inheritance law reform in order to protect women’s legal inheritance share (Case Study 4.2). Once the draft law is under discussion in parliament, CSOs may lobby parliamentarians for the adoption of the law. In some countries, CSOs are allowed to participate in certain parliamentary committees. For example, in Jordan the Sisterhood Is Global Institute participated in debates on social security in ad-hoc parliamentary committees and played a concrete role in improving the social security law text (Case Study 2.3).

  • Dissemination and awareness raising. Once the reform is adopted, they are often actively involved in the dissemination of the reform including at grassroots level. For example, in Morocco, the Soulaliyate movement, supported by other national civil society organisations, is disseminating and implementing the recent legal reforms on equal access to land for Soulaliyate women (Case Study 3.3).

  • Implementation. In some areas, CSOs are active implementers of the law. For example, most shelters for women victims of violence across the region are operated by CSOs, and a number of CSOs in the region facilitate women’s access to justice (Case Studies 4.4, 4.5, 4.6 and 4.7).

  • Holding government accountable. CSOs may also hold government accountable for the implementation of reforms. For example, in Tunisia Article 12 of the law on the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls indicates that the Ministry of Women, the Family, Children and Seniors should set up co-ordination mechanisms with civil society in order to follow up on the implementation of this law (Case Study 4.4).

  • Capacity building. When a movement for reform starts at the grassroots level the women involved may not be used to participating in policy forums or advocacy efforts. CSOs can also build the capacity of the women involved. For example, when the Soulaliyate women in Morocco started demanding equal access to land they were trained by national CSOs as well as UN Women to learn how to improve their advocacy skills. Their movement led to legal reform granting equal access to land for Soulaliyate women and men (Case Study 3.3). CSOs exist in many forms. They often work in close collaboration with international organisations, which provide them with funding and capacity building. This leads to further empowerment of the women that are part of these CSOs.

Interviews conducted for this publication indicated that relations among the various CSOs advocating for women’s economic empowerment are not always straightforward, often driven by rivalry in competing for funding or disagreements on certain campaigns. In other cases, CSOs have teamed up successfully. In Tunisia, a variety of CSOs participated in the development of the comprehensive law on VAW (Case Study 4.4). In Jordan, a coalition of CSOs was created that effectively advocated for labour law reforms in support of women’s economic empowerment (Case Study 2.1).

In some cases, women’s rights activists from CSOs have taken up leadership positions in the government or in international organisations and have been instrumental in bringing about important reforms on women’s economic empowerment. In Morocco, a former Director of the High Authority for Audio-visual Communication was previously a prominent CSO member. Her leadership led to legal reforms that prohibited stereotyping and gender discrimination in the media sector (Case Study 5.2). In Tunisia, one of the founders of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women became the President of the Committee for Individual Freedoms and Equality (Case Study 4.1).

To continue to strengthen the role of CSOs in supporting reform, excessive restrictions on freedom of association should be lifted so that CSOs can continue functioning. Certain parliamentary discussions should be opened to CSOs so that they can present their arguments in favour of gender equality legislation.

Legal reform is a complex undertaking to which a range of actors contribute. The report has shown that while law making and implementation are mostly the responsibility of parliaments and governments, many other institutions also play a role in this process. The case studies in this chapter focus on the role of parliaments, civil society organisations, the media and national human rights institutions. Some of these institutions are hindered in their functioning because of excessive restrictions on freedom of association and freedom of speech that apply in a number of countries covered by the publication. While Tunisia has made the most progress in the implementation of freedom of speech and freedom of association, Jordan and Morocco have also made important headway. In Egypt, continuous effort would be required to facilitate the participation of civil society organisations in the public arena.

The case studies have shown that there are many strategies and mechanisms that can be used to make sure that gender equality is taken into account at all stages of law making. The following recommendations have been distilled from the case studies:

  • Continue building the evidence base to underpin legal reforms that support gender equality and women’s empowerment. CSOs together with international organisations often provide important support to governments in this regard.

  • Include gender concerns during the drafting of legal texts. CSOs can sometimes submit draft laws to parliament for their consideration and in some cases comments on legal draft texts can be requested from NHRIs to make sure that gender equality is taken into account in the early stages of law making.

  • Put in place strategies to facilitate the adoption process of gender equality legislation. Encourage the set-up and facilitate the functioning of permanent parliamentary bodies that focus on gender equality. Make sure that gender equality is also taken into account in other types of parliamentary bodies, such as economic and finance committees. Open certain parliamentary discussions to CSOs so that they can present their arguments in favour of gender equality legislation.

  • Ensure the implementation of gender equality legislation. Annual progress reporting mandated by the law can be a good way of following up on implementation. Encourage multi-stakeholder initiatives in cases where the government encounters challenges in implementation.

  • Ratify the CEDAW optional protocol and set up NHRIs in line with the provisions foreseen in the constitution so that there are additional mechanisms in place to enforce women’s rights.

  • Ensure the dissemination of gender equality legislation. Dissemination strategies should be adapted to the target audience. CSOs and the media play an important role in ensuring this.

  • Lift excessive restrictions on freedom of association so that CSOs can continue functioning.

  • Include a gender equality perspective in the policy documents guiding the work of different traditional media institutions. Do further research on the role that social media plays in women’s economic empowerment in the region.

  • Encourage measures to achieve gender-balanced representation in decision-making positions in parliaments and the media. The OECD Recommendation on Gender Equality in Public Life (OECD, 2019[1]) provides further guidance on how this can be achieved.

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Notes

← 1. Table 1 at the start of this report contains an “at-a-glance” summary of all the themes of the case studies and in-depth boxes.

← 2. Gender-sensitive budgeting involves integrating a clear gender perspective within the overall context of the budgetary process through the use of special processes and analytical tools, with a view to promoting gender-responsive policies (Downes, Von Trapp and Nicol, 2017[42]).

← 3. http://archive.ipu.org/pdf/publications/gsp11-e.pdf

← 4. These guidebooks are not available online.

← 5. Loi organique n° 34.15 relative à l'élection des membres des conseils des collectivités territoriales.

← 6. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/04/how-menas-young-women-are-fighting-to-change-the-status-quo/

← 7. Société Nationale de Radio et Télévision (SNRT), Soread 2M and Médi 1 TV.

← 8. These broadcasters each used a different approach. SNRT as well as private radios included gender provisions in their Ethics Charters. Soread 2M issued a “Charter to enhance the image of women”. Médi 1 TV, a private broadcaster, has worked with HACA to include gender concerns in its cahier des charges (HACA, 2017[13]).

← 9. Loi n° 88-13 relative à la presse et à l'édition : https://www.wipo.int/edocs/lexdocs/laws/fr/ma/ma069fr.pdf.

← 10. Loi n°66-16 modifiant et complétant la loi n° 77-03 and Loi n° 77-03 relative à la communication audiovisuelle: https://wipolex.wipo.int/fr/text/190944.

← 11. Loi n°11-15 portant réorganisation de la Haute autorité de la communication audiovisuelle: https://wipolex.wipo.int/fr/text/438925.

← 12. Loi n°11-15 portant réorganisation de la Haute autorité de la communication audiovisuelle. (Art. 7) and Décision du Conseil supérieur de la communication audiovisuelle n° 07-17 du 03 joumada II 1438 (02 Mars 2017) portant procédure des plaints.

← 13. Loi n°66-16 modifiant et complétant la loi n° 77-03 and Loi n° 77-03 relative à la communication audiovisuelle (art 41).

← 14. For details see: http://expertes.ma/.

← 15. Loi organique n° 2015-50 du 3 décembre 2015, relative à la Cour constitutionnelle.

← 16. Dahir n°1-18-17 du 5 joumada II 1439 (22 février 2018) portant promulgation de la loi n°76-15 relative à la reorganisation du Conseil national des droits de l’Homme.

← 17. The committee consisted of 15 members who are academics and legal experts.

← 18. Avis du Conseil Économique, Social et Environnemental, Projet de loi n°79-14 relative à l’Autorité pour la parité et de lutte contre toutes formes de discrimination. Saisine n°20/2016. See http://www.ces.ma/Documents/PDF/Saisines/2016/s20/avs20f.pdf.

← 19. Avis du Conseil national des droits de l’Homme sur le projet de loi N° 79.14 relatif à l’Autorité pour la parité et la lutte contre toutes les formes de discrimination.

← 20. Dahir n°1-17-47 du 30 hija 1438 (21 septembre 2017) portant promulgation de la loi n°79-14 relative à l’Autorité pour la parité et de lutte contre toutes formes de discrimination.

← 21. These findings have also been documented in the annual Human Rights Watch reports and the interviews carried out for this publication. The HRW reports can be viewed on the following sites: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/tunisia; https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/morocco/western-sahara; https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/egypt; https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/jordan.

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