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.
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.

Mar 30, 2011

FGM Fund update March 2011

Liberia -- enactment of FGM law

In March 2011, Equality Now issued a Women's Action calling on the 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.  Please see link below.

FGM case in Niger (AGLDF)

Equality Now is following up on the case of about eight girls, between the ages of one month to seven years, who were mutilated by a circumciser in the area of Kariel in Niger and taken to the local hospital for treatment. The police immediately arrested the circumciser and the parents. The local court has not set a date for a first hearing. Last year 42 people were convicted of subjecting their daughters to genital mutilation and sentenced to eight month suspended jail sentences and a fine of 89US$ each.

AWAKEN

The latest issue of Equality Now's journal, which is resource to share information and provide a forum to promote a better understanding and more effective strategies for the eradication of FGM, is being printed and will soon be available on our website. Please see the link below for the last edition from 2010.

Strengthening the work of our partners:

Recently, Equality Now staff traveled to conduct monitoring and evaluation (M&E) training for two FGM Fund partners: PROFESAB in Mali and CONIPRAT in Niger. This is part of our efforts to strengthen the capacity of grassroots groups working in their communities.

Links:

Jan 4, 2011

AGLDF Update: January 2011

Equality Now
Quarterly Update: Adolescent Girls Legal Defense Fund
January 2011

A Workshop in Pakistan
On December 13 and 14, 2010, Equality Now and War Against Rape (WAR) convened a two-day workshop titled, “Sexual Violence: Obstacles to Justice and a Search for Solutions” in Lahore, Pakistan. The meeting, held at Punjab University Law College in Lahore, brought together over 40 activists, lawyers and service providers from across Pakistan, who deliberated on prevention, access to justice and service delivery for survivors of sexual violence and incest.

Discussions took place in three panel presentations on the first day and in working groups on the second day. At the end of the workshop, participants adopted a series of recommendations to enhance prevention, strengthening of laws and provision of services. Equality Now is currently preparing a final report on the workshop that we will share when it is finalized.

Zambia – Teacher Rape
On November 1 – 2, 2010, Equality Now, in collaboration with the Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA), organized a lawyers’ training on national, regional and international law on sexual violence against adolescent girls. The training was undertaken within the UN Trust Fund project and involved 23 lawyers from Lusaka who were trained on application of international law in domestic courts and in the use of the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa in national and regional courts. Attendees also discussed harmful cultural practices that affect women and girls and strategized on possible law-reform initiatives and the use of public-interest litigation to challenge laws, including those enabling customary practices that are harmful to adolescent girls in Zambia. Equality Now and WLSA will follow up with the lawyers to encourage them to take up cases of adolescent girls and identify issues for legal reform.

Possible new AGLDF cases – Bangladesh
We had agreed to assist in the rape case of a girl who is a member of a religious minority in Bangladesh on the condition that the partner organization involved, Bangladesh Institute for Human Rights (BIHR), could either identify a pro bono lawyer or that Equality Now would be able to use our contacts to find someone willing to take on the case, which could potentially result in years of litigation. Barrister Sara Hossain has agreed to take on the case once she has assessed it, and we have passed on Ms. Hossain’s contact information to BIHR.

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