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.
Dec 23, 2010

December 2010 FGM Update

 EQUALITY NOW
FGM Update: December 2010

Working to End FGM in Mali 
Equality Now has been ramping up efforts to ensure passage of a strong law against FGM in Mali, in partnership with the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (IAC). In September 2010, Equality Now staff and three parliamentarians from Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Togo traveled to Mali to meet with their Malian counterparts to discuss strategies that can be used towards adopting a law against FGM in Mali. While the Mali parliamentarians expressed reluctance to pass such a law, they did agree to develop a plan of action that, it is hoped, will ultimately lead to the passage of an anti-FGM law. One extremely positive outcome of the Mali meetings was a statement by the Malian Minister for Gender indicating support for any anti-FGM actions or strategies adopted by parliament.  

FGM in the United States: An Update
While FGM is illegal in the U.S., thousands of girls living in the country are at risk of being subjected to FGM, either in the U.S. or when transported to their families’ home countries, often during their school holidays. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated in 1997 that over 168,000 girls and women living in the U.S. have either been subjected to FGM or are in danger of being so. 

During the legislative session that will end January 3, 2011, U.S. Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA)  introduced “The Girls Protection Act (H.R. 5137),” bipartisan legislation that would address this gaping hole in protections for girls and women. While the 111th Congress did not vote on the bill during its session, Equality Now will continue to rally support for passage in the next legislative session.

Africa Rising: Building Awareness of the Atrocities of FGM
Africa Rising, spearheaded by Equality Now and directed by Emmy award-winning director Paula Heredia, is an insightful look at the frontlines of a quiet revolution taking Africa by storm, as grassroots efforts to end FGM slowly but steadily gain traction. The film was screened twice in September 2010 at the Urbanworld Film Festival in New York City. (See the attached program for the festival and the description of Africa Rising on page 23.)

Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda: Urgent Alerts
After having received reports of mass mutilation of girls in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, Equality Now released urgent alerts and wrote letters to the President of Uganda, the Inspector General of Police in Uganda and the Police Commissioner in Kenya. The letters are summarized below:

Tanzania – Urgent Alert calling on the government of Tanzania to rescue girls at risk of undergoing FGM and prosecute perpetrators:
Following reports indicating that as many as 5,000 girls are at risk of undergoing FGM in Tarime region in Tanzania during the holiday season (from November to January),  Equality Now issued an urgent alert calling on the government of Tanzania to take action and prevent FGM from taking place. The alert highlighted the need for the government to put in place a preventative mechanism to save girls who have not undergone the practice and arresting and prosecuting the perpetrators.

Uganda – Letters to the President and Inspector General of Police:
Following reports of planned mutilation in the Sabiny region in Uganda, Equality Now wrote a letter urging the President of Uganda, His Excellence Yoweri Museveni, to take action in enforcing the new anti FGM law to ensure that all women and girls at risk are protected from undergoing FGM. In the letter, Equality Now highlighted his role in adopting the law against FGM in Uganda and the ratification to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

Kenya – Letter to the Police Commissioner:
Following press reports of planned FGM activities in different parts of the country, Equality Now wrote a letter to the Police Commissioner asking him to act urgently to investigate and to prevent girls from undergoing FGM in Kuria, Marakwet and other parts of the country. In the letter, we called on the Commissioner to enforce the Children’s Act and arrest those planning to conduct the mutilation.


Attachments:
Sep 9, 2010

Update on AGLDF

Updates on Ethiopia and Zambia cases: Excellent news is that the government of Zambia decided to not pursue an appeal in R.M.'s case, rendering the judgment final and possible to site as precedent. To support R.M.’s case and to respond more strategically and collectively, AGLDF convened a coalition of Zambian organizations that were already working on issues relating to violations of the rights of girls. Recently, Equality Now secured a three-year grant from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women to scale up the activities of the coalition. Additionally, Zambian officials acknowledged the outpouring from our Women’s Action Network, and the Ministry of Education asked for our help in drafting guidelines to protect schoolgirls from sexual violence.

In Ethiopia, our staff continues to work to negotiate a friendly settlement on Woineshet's behalf.

Other current cases: Incest in Pakistan: AGLDF is pursuing a case where a 15-year-old girl (N) was raped by her father. In Pakistan, there is no specific law on incest in the penal code, and given the conservative nature of society, issues such as rape and incest are surrounded by stigma and very difficult to address.

Working with a local partner, we found a pro-bono lawyer who was successful in persuading the police to not dismiss the case and getting the prosecutor, who was bribed by the father, suspended. We hope to set a precedent and work towards including a provision on incest in Pakistan’s penal code, making it a higher offense than rape. To facilitate this case, AGLDF will continue to strategize with N’s lawyer, consult with and support local groups, and monitor N’s situation.

FGM in Kenya: AGLDF is monitoring a case seeking justice for a 10-year-old Maasai girl, who bled to death after being subjected to FGM in Kenya. Her father and the circumciser were arrested and are facing manslaughter charges. AGLDF retained a lawyer to help the prosecution bring a successful case (public prosecutors in Kenya are often not lawyers themselves), but the case has stagnated because the police have not tracked down the defendants so that they appear in court. AGLDF is working with our local partner to put pressure on the police to investigate so that the case can move forward.

Potential New Cases Peacekeeper abuses: There are numerous incidents involving the sexual abuse of young girls by UN peacekeepers and aid workers. AGLDF is working with a lawyer on possibly bringing a class action suit in US courts on behalf of the victims against the perpetrators and the senior UN officials (past and present) who have not acted sufficiently.

Acid attacks, Pakistan/ Bangladesh: Acid attacks on girls are commonly used as a form of revenge for refusal of sexual advances, proposals of marriage and demands for dowry. AGLDF is studying the issue and is in talks with local groups to strategize on legal reform and identify roadblocks in survivor’s access to justice.

Sex tourism: Sex tourism originating from the United States is a major human rights issue facing adolescent girls in several countries as well as a contributing factor to sex trafficking. Building on Equality Now’s long history of working to shut down U.S.-based sex tour operators, we are exploring initiating a civil lawsuit on behalf of the young girls who are abused by convicted sex tourists.

Rape by pastor, Kenya: A pastor raped three young girls in his congregation, but instead of charging him with “defilement” (statutory rape), the prosecutor charged him with “indecent exposure,” which has a minimal sentence. This case shows problems with the implementation of the law, especially when the perpetrator is influential. Thus, our local partner is working to have the charges amended, but if they are not successful, AGLDF will take this case to demonstrate the impediments to protecting girls’ rights in the system of justice.

Aug 11, 2010

Summer 2010 Update on AGLDF

Pakistan – incest (AGLDF) The trial date in N’s case has now been postponed to September 2, 2010. We have commenced work on our report on rape and incest in Pakistan and are currently working on compiling a list of good practices on procedural and substantive laws on rape/incest from around the world. We are coordinating with our partner organization War Against Rape to assemble a list of attending Pakistani organizations for the workshop on incest we plan to hold in December.

Zambia – teacher rape Equality Now is currently compiling model school guidelines on sexual harassment and grievance procedures to submit to the Zambian Ministry of Education to help them formulate guidelines to address violence against schoolgirls.

Possible new cases Brazil Sex tourism Equality Now is investigating a sex tourism case involving a US citizen who has been accused of bringing onto his fishing tours in Brazil young girls who were then sexually exploited by his clients. We have written statements from five of the victims and are exploring the possibility of bringing a lawsuit in the United States on behalf of them. Through this civil litigation against a sex tourism company, we hope to obtain restitution for the girls as well as set a legal precedent on civil remedies available to such victims, which we hope will serve as a deterrent to sex tourists.

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