Discriminatory Legal Systems

Discriminatory Legal Systems

The Global Justice Center is working to integrate international law into domestic legal systems where the rights of women and girls are not adequately protected.

The Issue

In many countries, women and girls are denied the full protection of rights required by their country’s international legal obligations. From attacks on reproductive health care in the United States to antiquated definitions of sexual violence in Iraq, domestic laws and policies often fall short of the international human rights guaranteed to women and girls.

Legal Analysis

GJC uses international human rights laws and standards to shine a light on areas in which various countries are denying women and girls equal protection of the law.

  • In Iraq: Our analysis of Iraq’s criminal laws highlighted the myriad barriers to justice for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, particularly in relation to the international crimes committed by the Islamic State.
  • In Burma: Despite perceptions of democratic transition, Burma’s Constitution enshrines the military’s privileged position in the government. Most troublingly, the Constitution guarantees military impunity for human rights abuses, effectively denying justice for the thousands of women that have been subjected to sexual violence at the hands of the military over the course of decades of armed conflict. We have provided support and expertise to a wide variety of grassroots actors in Burma for over a decade, training local women’s groups on how to use UN human rights mechanisms and international law to support accountability efforts and advocate for a comprehensive violence against women law.
  • In Bosnia and Herzegovina: We provided a powerful critique on the government’s failure to fully redress crimes of sexual violence occurring during the Bosnian War and the absence of sufficient action to end violence against women generally.
  • In Sri Lanka: In partnership with the World Organization Against Torture, we provided expertise to the UN Committee against Torture detailing the ways Sri Lanka’s abortion law, rape law and child marriage law present major legislative obstacles to ensuring women and girls are free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.


Over the past decade, we have been a leading voice in the role of international human rights in the fights for equal protection of the law for women and girls. We have provided countless expert and legal analyses to UN’s Secretary General, Security Council, Human Rights Council, Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Human Right Committee, Committee against Torture, as well as governments, parliaments, ministries of foreign affairs and intergovernmental bodies.  

Key Resources