Sudanese women mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women Source: Twitter/TicToc

Countries around the world are uniting their efforts to end violence against women while in the Arab region - where millions of women continue to be subjected to all forms of abuse - little is being done to join this global fight. 

On Monday, thousands marched in protests to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The occasion, which sheds light on the plight of female victims, is an opportunity to continue pressuring lawmakers to make serious reforms in legislations that can help lay ground for much needed change. 

As this movement takes place on the global front, we need to ask: What is our region doing to end violence against women? 

Unfortunately, the answer paints a bleak picture of how the Arab world is watching in silence. 

The word "honor" is still tied to crimes committed against women

Ending a human being's life is called murder and there are no excuses for it no matter what ... except in the Arab world. 

In our region, a man can murder a woman and then claim his actions were spurred by the need to "defend" his so-called honor. Women are killed for supposedly transgressing social codes of honor or rightfully choosing to live life the way they see fit. Then, our societies dub their cold-blooded murders using the term "honor killings."

Every year, hundreds of these crimes take place, with the majority going unreported. Victims' names are kept under wraps except in rare cases like that of Palestinian make-up artist Isra'a Ghrayeb who was murdered by her family for posting images with her soon-to-be fiancé on Snapchat. 

Things are worse when laws are involved. In most of the region's countries, men who kill to "cleanse their honor" are served with lighter sentences

Several Arab countries, including Jordan, have taken stands against these murders but that doesn't change the fact there are several legal loopholes available to those who commit "honor crimes." 

The complete abolishment of a system that deems it acceptable to negotiate sentences for men who murder women is what many activists continue to call for. 

Laws against domestic violence are passed but rarely implemented

Source: YouTube

In the past few weeks, several cases of horrific abuse against women were reported across the region. From Saudi Arabia to Jordan, these cases were only handled by authorities after they went viral online

In one of these horrific crimes, a Jordanian man gouged his wife's eyes in front of his own children following a domestic disputeAmid the ongoing rise in this form of violence, women across the region are demanding authorities not only pass anti-domestic violence laws but also properly implement them because they seldom do

A case in point is Saudi Arabia, a country that criminalized domestic violence in 2013 but still witnesses a rise in such cases. 

Activists say this is mainly due to the fact that the country's legal system continues to cultivate a misogynistic environment that further encourages violence and discrimination against women. 

Others also attribute it to the fact that the majority of abused women don't report their experiences because they live in communities where gender-based violence has been normalized. This is also the case in several other Arab countries including Kuwait, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. 

Women are still shamed and blamed for being harassed or raped

"What did she do?" is what you'll hear from many Arabs when they learn that a woman has been harassed. In our countries, harassers get away with their crimes while their victims are bullied and shamed. 

Women have been sexually harassed even in the holiest of places and during Hajj season but they were still blamed and questioned. They were filmed being raped and assaulted yet no one dared make a move to help them. 

This is why so many cases of rape and sexual harassment go unreported. This is why hundreds of thousands of victims never speak out about their experiences. This is also why our lawmakers need to take serious action and stop passing ineffective laws that are never applied the right way.  

Saudi Arabia passed a law against sexual harassment, so did Jordan, Egypt, and other regional nations ... but the rates of this form of abuse continue to rise. 

Some authorities dare to ask why that is when they know it's because we live in societies where sexual harassment and rape are still dismissed as "mistakes" committed by men who deserve second chances. This also applied to Arab celebrities who are known to have harassed women but are still idolized instead of being punished. 

Marriage and divorce laws continue to leave women vulnerable

Some Arab women have to fight forced marriages while others desperately struggle to be granted divorce. Alimony rights and custody are other things women have to rage battles for even though they constitute the most basic of their rights. Passing on citizenship to their husbands and children if married to foreigners is another impossibility for Arab women. 

In Saudi Arabia, women still need permission from their male guardians to marry and often face major trouble when they need to get a divorce. Yet no law exists against forced or child marriages.

Divorce is also very difficult to get due to social stigmas and laws that always favor men. When a woman is lucky enough to win a divorce battle, she often loses out legal fights for custody as is the case of late Lebanese activist Nadyn Jouny. 

In Lebanon, the Shia sect's Jaafari court rules leave mothers with no option but to fight for their right to raise their children. In the case of a divorce, a father gets immediate custody of male children once they turn 2  years old and of female children once they turn 7 years old. 

Lebanon has 15 separate personal status laws administered by different religious courts and most of them torment mothers during custody battles.

So when we ask "What is the Arab world doing to protect women?", the answer seems quite obvious most of the time ... "not enough."