Imagine: you can’t leave the house without your spouse’s permission. You don’t get to decide what to wear in public, or whether and where you work. You are forced to marry the person who raped you, and you have no choice but to keep a pregnancy you don’t want.

You might assume I’m talking about a country with notoriously repressive regimes, where girls and women are cruelly denied rights they are fighting hard to secure. But these extreme examples of oppression and injustice are a daily reality for millions of girls and women right now and in countries all over the map. In fact, new data from the World Bank’s Women, Business, and the Law report confirms that some 2.4 billion women worldwide still do not have equal economic rights, and on average, women are afforded just three quarters the legal rights as men.

Outrageous and indefensible examples of discriminatory laws, policies, and norms exist on all continents, and in every nation. Some are absurd: Like the 18 countries that legally require a married woman to obey her husband. Some are doubly discriminatory, such as laws dictating where Muslim women can wear the hijab. Some are downright jaw-dropping: 30 countries have zero laws addressing domestic violence.

All are harmful.

Legalized, institutionalized, and normalized misogyny is everywhere. It’s holding girls and women back from reaching their full potential and realizing the equality that is their birthright. And the consequences are devastating, rippling across communities and generations. Gendered laws and policies areassociated with fewer girls enrolled in primary and secondary education; fewer women in skilled work; fewer women owning land or property; fewer women accessing financial and health services; and higher rates of domestic, family, and sexual violence.

Read the full article about gender equity and the law by Michelle Milford Morse at United Nations Foundation.