Equality Now

Equality Now is an international human rights advocacy organization, with offices in New York, Nairobi and London, committed to ending violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world. It was among the first international organizations to develop advocacy campaigns to protect the fundamental rights of women and girls.
Apr 24, 2012

AGLDF Report: Learning from Cases of Girls' Rights

Representing the knowledge gained from cases undertaken as part of Equality Now’s Adolescent Girls’ Legal Defense Fund (AGLDF), this report identifies and addresses the common obstacles faced by adolescent girls in their pursuit of justice. Since its inception in 2008, the AGLDF has taken up nine cases involving various forms of sexual violence, the most common abuse suffered by girls, in seven countries. This paper consolidates and aggregates the lessons learned from these cases in our effort to establish legal precedents to prevent and better address future violations of girls’ rights.

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Jan 24, 2012

AGLDF Update: January 2012

AGLDF Project Learnings

Equality Now is finalizing a report that compiles information from the eight cases AGLDF has taken up in seven countries. The point of the paper is to identify commonalities between the cases to shape our future action and advocacy. To review, the cases are:

Ethiopia - Rape, abduction and forced marriage – Since 2002, Equality Now has been involved in the case of W. N., who at the age of 13 was abducted twice, raped and forced to sign a marriage contract.Our goal is to ensure that there were laws against abduction, rape and forced marriage and that these laws were implemented to eradicate this harmful practice.

Zambia - Rape by teachers - Equality Now has been actively supporting a case involving the rape of a 13-year-old girl, R. M., by her teacher in 2006. Our goal is to ensure that the Zambian legal and educational systems properly handle cases of rape in educational institutions and particularly by teachers.

Kenya – Female genital mutilation (FGM) - Equality Now worked with our Kenyan partner Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative (TNI), on the case of S. N., a 12-year-old girl from the Maasai community who bled to death on August 18, 2008, after being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). Our goal is to ensure that the government takes FGM cases seriously and properly prosecutes the perpetrators so that deterrent effect of the FGM law is achieved.

Pakistan – Incest – In 2009, Equality Now with its partner War Against Rape (WAR), Lahore, took on the case of N, a 15-year-old Pakistani girl and the oldest of six children, who was raped by her father. Our goal is to set a legal precedent on incestual rape, address barriers to access to justice for survivors of sexual violence and ultimately reform the Pakistan Penal Code to add a provision on incest.

Yemen – Child Marriage - In 2010, with our partner Yemen Women Union (YWU), we took on the case of 11-year-old M who, in 2009, was taken out of school and married off by her father to a 40-year-old farmer. Our goal is to establish the right of child brides to get a divorce without having to pay compensation to their husbands and to ultimately establish a law banning child marriage in Yemen.

Brazil – Sex Tourism - In 2010, Equality Now helped facilitate a civil case in the US on behalf of a number of Brazilian girls who were sexually exploited by clients of a fishing tour company in Brazil run by a US citizen. Our goal is to establish a precedent under the civil remedy provision of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) to encourage other victims to bring such cases and to serve as a deterrent for perpetrators.

Kenya – Gang Rape - In 2010, Equality Now took on a case with the Federation of Women Lawyers, Kenya (FIDA-Kenya), involving the gang-rape of Z.A., a 17-year-old girl in Kisumu, Kenya. Our goal is to set a precedent on police responsibility to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of sexual violence and protect girls.

Uganda – Rape of disabled girl – In 2010, with Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities (LAPD), we took on the case of a severely disabled girl who became pregnant as a result of the rape but could not identify her rapist and the Ugandan government refused to pay for DNA testing.  Our goal is to establish a precedent for government responsibility to take additional steps to investigate cases of sexual violence against disabled victims.

In helping the plaintiffs from around the world seek justice and navigate complex legal systems, we have learned the following: 

  • Girls need knowledge of their rights before they can access them.
  • Girls need a supportive environment where they can voice their concerns/violations of rights without fear of stigma or disbelief.
  • Girls who are victims of sexual violence, in particular, need assurance that they will not be re-victimized through the legal system.
  • Girls need assurance that access to justice will be swift so that they can continue with their lives.
  • Girls need support services that are girl-centered and sensitive to their specific needs with a focus on empowering the victim and giving her agency and the ability to make her own decisions.

Case Progress

In January, AGLDF traveled to Pakistan to follow-up on the incest case as well as investigate a potential new case involving a girl kidnapped and raped by a group of policemen.  During this trip, ourcomprehensive report on incest, done in conjunction with local partners, was finalized and printed, and it is being distributed to relevant stakeholders and NGOs throughout Pakistan. Additionally, staff met with two high court judges to discuss prodecural updates that would help and protect victims as they take cases through the courts as well as to continue to call for a provision on incest in the penal code.

Oct 18, 2011

AGLDF Case Progress: October 2011

Brazil

AGLDF has facilitated a civil case under the TVPA in the U.S. on behalf of Brazilian girls who were sexually exploited by clients of a U.S. fishing tour company engaged in sex tourism. This company was run by a U.S. citizen who brought American tourists on fishing trips to the Amazon. The owner and his employees would lure  local girls--some as young as 13—onto his boats where the girls were forced to have sex with the tourists.

  •  In June, AGLDF assisted the lawyers in filing the suit in Atlanta; the case was stayed in August at the request of the defendant until a related criminal investigation has been completed. The filing brought significant international media coverage that featured Equality Now/AGLDF, including an article in the New York Times.
  • Due to the media exposure, the Minister of Women’s Policies in Brazil stated that she would investigate sex tourism in the region of Amazonas and look into forming a committee to address the issue, and the Brazilian Federal Police stated that they were now investigating 20 customers and potential ‘johns’ who went on the defendant’s fishing tours to Brazil.
  • Additionally, Equality Now has found out that Brazilian Senate is conducting its own inquiry into this particular case, and they have held hearings during which the Brazilian co-owner of the travel agency testified and the Federal Police confirmed the sale of the tour packages.

Uganda

AGLDF continues to work on the case in Uganda of N.S., a severely disabled girl, who was raped by a family member in 2007 when she was 13. Our goal in this case is to establish a precedent for government responsibility to take additional steps to investigate and prosecute cases of sexual violence against disabled victims.

Since the last update, AGLDF and our partner Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities (LAPD) Uganda has pushed for DNA testing of the father and brothers and for the prosecution of the perpetrator. We successfully raised funds for the testing, and after sustained advocacy with Ugandan authorities the case was reopened. The suspects were apprehended on 24 August 2011, and DNA samples taken. Additionally, the police took DNA samples from N.S. and her baby and these have been taken to the government chemist for review. We are still awaiting the results.

 

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