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.
Aug 2, 2011

Progress in AGLDF cases

Verdict in Pakistan Case

On July 22, 2011 a guilty verdict was rendered in the AGLDF incest case in Pakistan, and the perpetrator was arrested and awarded the death penalty. (As a human rights organization, Equality Now is not in support of death as a punishment.)

During the last days of the trial it appeared that the case was not proceeding in the victim’s favor as the prosecution's commitment was questionable. First, the medical examiner, testifying for the prosecution, stated that because there were no marks of violence on the victim's body at the time of examination, it could not be concluded that she had been raped. N's lawyer, with AGLDF’s support, had to rush to counter this argument with various scholarly research and legal opinions showing that marks of violence are not necessary in a rape.

In addition, the prosecutor made numerous statements during the hearing that were more supportive of the defense than the victim, and her lawyer had to intervene to salvage the situation. Thus, we were uncertain about securing a favorable verdict.

AGLDF greatly appreciates the tireless efforts made by N and her family, our partner War Against Rape and N's lawyer. Currently, the perpetrator has sent a notice of appeal to the High Court, and N’s lawyer will be pushing for child support and the father’s property to be awarded to his wife and children.

 Brazil Sex Tourism Case Filed in U.S.

On June 14th, 2011 attorneys from King & Spalding, with AGLDF’s support, filed a civil complaint in Atlanta, GA against the owner of a sex tour company on behalf of four Brazilian women who were exploited as minors on these tours. Since that time, the defendant filed a motion to stay the civil case on the basis that there are two pending criminal cases/investigations (one in the US, one in Brazil) against him regarding the same conduct. The case has received prominent national and international coverage, including in Brazil, key to raising awareness about the issue.

 The US civil complaint was filed with pseudonyms for the plaintiffs; thus while the news articles and broadcasts are drawing attention to the issue, they thankfully are not drawing unwanted attention to the plaintiffs in the case.

Links:

Jun 22, 2011

FGM Fund update June 2011

Update on Liberia Action

In March, Equality Now issued the Women's Action calling on the Liberian government to enact a law protecting women and girls from FGM in Liberia and seeking justice for Ruth Peal who was forcibly mutilated in January 2010 (see below) Since that time, the Minister of Internal Affairs has pledged to follow-up with Ruth’s case to ensure that she obtains justice, and the Ministry of Gender awarded a small grant to Ruth to help her start an income-generating activity.

FGM Case in Niger (AGLDF)

In November 2010, a member of the village watch reported to CONIPRAT that a circumciser mutilated seventeen young girls aged from three months to three years. CONIPRAT managed to identify only seven girls, and they were taken to hospital for treatment. The case was reported to the police, and the circumciser and nine parents were each charged with violation of article 232 of the Penal Code, which prohibits the practice of FGM in Niger.  On 12 April 2011, the accused were found guilty and sentenced to three months imprisonment and a fine of 40,000 CFA (US$ 89) each. The judge indicated that the perpetrators should start serving the sentence from the 29th April 2011. Unfortunately, on the 29th April, the court changed the sentence to a suspended jail term, and CONIPRAT was denied the right to appeal the decision. Wanting to ensure the victims receive justice and send a message to the community to deter them from continuing carrying out the practice, CONIPRAT hired a local lawyer who appealed against the ruling at the Court of appeal. The hearing date has not been set yet.

Links:

May 2, 2011

Adolescent Girls Legal Defense Fund (AGLDF) Update

Update on AGLDF--April 29, 2011

Child Marriage in Yemen

AGLDF took on the case of a girl, M, who at age nine was taken out of school and married by her father to a 30-year-old man. After a year of marriage, during which time she was violently beaten by her husband, she escaped from her abusive husband and ran home to her mother’s house. She threatened to kill herself if her family sent her back to her husband.

We are supporting the case with the hope that M’s lawyer will be able to persuade the court to grant her a divorce without having to pay back the dowry. However, there was a setback when, during an attempt by her husband to forcibly take M back, her uncle promised him that he would return it. As a result, the husband showed up at the last court hearing and told the judge that he had a promise on repayment of the dowry.  The judge ruled that he would issue M a divorce once she has paid back her husband. We are currently strategizing with our partner Yemen Women’s Union and M’s lawyer on addressing this situation and perhaps challenging the husband’s demands based on intimidation of the uncle.

Meanwhile, M is enrolled in school, and her family has been moved to a safer location. We have heard from her school principal that she is doing very well in her studies.

Incest in Pakistan

N finally testified in court in January and was brave and confident as she told her story. While in the same courtroom as her father, she was separated by a screen and now is no longer required to attend additional court hearings. At the last hearing, when her mother was supposed to testify, the father’s lawyer informed the judge that the father had gone to perform pilgrimage in Mecca. He presented approval forms from his bail officer that N’s lawyer discovered had been forged. N’s lawyer has filed an application for the cancellation of his bail.

N has recently finished her grade 10 exams and is seeing a psychologist (arranged for by AGLDF) who is helping her cope with anxiety and stress during the trial.

Teacher Rape in Zambia

R.M.’s compensation has finally come through from the government, but there has been no progress in arresting the teacher. So far, the coalition of groups that AGLDF supports has trained 30 paralegals, 26 lawyers, 40 health service providers, 25 journalists and 100 mentors for girls on addressing violence against schoolgirls. The project has also produced and aired public service announcements, over 10 radio shows and produced a play to educate communities. Currently, there are 569 girls participating in safe spaces clubs where they are empowered and educated on their rights, and 498 boys are members of clubs that teach them about respecting and defending the rights of girls.

Gang Rape in Kenya

Through the Federation of Women Lawyers, Kenya (FIDA-Kenya), AGLDF identified the case of Z.A., a 17-year-old girl in Kenya who was brutally raped twice. The first time was by her father, and as a result, she became H.I.V positive and pregnant. She reported the rape, but the police took no action. Later, after receiving threats from her father’s relatives, Z.A was gang raped by a group of men who also inserted needles into her abdomen. Again, the police took no action. We have taken on this case to highlight police responsibility in responding to cases of sexual violence against girls.

 Due to her H.I.V positive status, Z.A requires a great deal of medical attention and has been taken to the hospital on numerous occasions. She is now in a safe house in Kenya, and we and our partner FIDA-Kenya are strategizing on ways to put pressure on the police to investigate this case as well as looking into the possibility of bringing a civil action against the police for failure to act.

Incest involving a severely disabled girl in Uganda

AGLDF is investigating a case involving a severely disabled Ugandan girl (deaf, mute, blind and mentally handicapped) who has a child possibly as a result of incest.  She is now living in a home for the disabled and is denied access to justice since she can’t identify her rapist due to her disabilities, and the government will not pay for DNA tests for her baby, her father or her brothers. Her baby also was taken away from her.  We are working with our local partner to put pressure on the police to reopen the investigation, bring in the suspects and carry out DNA testing to identify the rapist. The funding for the DNA testing has been provided by a generous donor. This case will highlight issues of vulnerability of disabled girls to violence and establish an important precedent.

Potential New Cases

We are exploring a case in India of girls in inter-generational prostitution and the state’s failure to protect them, and a case in Zambia involving a girl who was forced into severe forms of pornography.

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