Skip to main content

Family Law Reform to Challenge Gender-Based Violence: A Research and Knowledge-Based Advocacy Project

Central Asia
South Asia
Far East Asia
Middle East
Project ID
Total Funding
CAD 808,400.00
IDRC Officer
Roula El-Rifai
Project Status
End Date
36 months

Programs and partnerships

Employment and Growth
Governance and Justice

Lead institution(s)


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.Read more

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.

Research outputs

Access full library of outputs Opens in new tab



Around the world, discriminatory legislation prevents women from accessing their human rights. It can affect almost every aspect of a woman's life, including the right to choose a partner, inherit property, hold a job, and obtain child custody. Often referred to as family law, these laws have contributed to discrimination, and to the justification of gender-based violence globally. This book demonstrates how women across the world are contributing to legal reform, helping to shape non-discriminatory policies and to counter current legal and social justifications for gender-based violence. The book takes case studies from Brazil, India, Iran, Lebanon, Nigeria, Palestine, Senegal, and Turkey, using them to demonstrate in each case the varied history of family law, and the wide variety of issues impacting women’s equality in legislation. Interviews with prominent women's rights activists in three additional countries are also included, giving personal accounts of the successes and failures of past reform efforts. Overall, the book provides a complex global picture of current trends and strategies in the fight for a more egalitarian society. These findings come at a critical moment for change. Across the globe, family law issues are contentious. We are simultaneously witnessing an increased demand for women’s equality and the resurgence of fundamentalist forces that impede reform, invoking rules rooted in tradition, culture, and interpretations of religious texts. The outcome of these disputes has enormous ramifications for women’s roles in the family and society. This book tackles these complexities head on, and will interest activists, practitioners, students, and scholars working on women's rights and gender-based violence.

Access full library of outputs Opens in new tab