Thank you to all of our donors for your continuous support of the AGLDF. In this report, we are updating you on two of our advocacy campaigns aimed at breaking down the practice of early marriage. Early marriage, that is marriage before age 18, violates the human rights of girls by excluding them from decisions regarding the timing of marriage, choice of spouse and participation in sexual relations. When a girl gets married off as a child, her life becomes one of constant violence and discrimination. Often living with a man much older than herself, she is abruptly and violently initiated into sexual relations – suffering regular rapes by her husband and, unable to pursue an education, is less equipped to negotiate a secure and healthy life for herself. Worldwide there are 51 million girls between the ages of 15-19 that are currently married and, if nothing is done to address the issue, 100 million girls will be married before eighteen within the next decade.
We bring you good news on two issues we’ve campaigned on in Saudi Arabia and Morocco.
Saudi Arabia - Equality Now followed the case of Fatima, a 12-year-old girl whose father sold her in marriage to a 50-year-old man for $10,665. We intervened to support Fatima’s paternal uncle who wanted to help his niece. In November 2012, the court granted Fatima a divorce, final three months later. Unusually, Fatima was not required to pay back the money given to her father by her husband for Fatima, which is a good precedent we would like to build on. We continue to work with Saudi activists to get a ban on all early marriage in Saudi Arabia.
Watch this VIDEO of a play written by Joss Whedon that illustrates some of our AGLDF cases, including the Yemen case which we reported to you previously. We helped to secure a divorce for 11-year-old Wafa, married off by her father to a 40-year-old farmer who subjected her to a year of sexual and physical abuse before she managed to run away.
Morocco - Equality Now also advocates to change early marriage laws worldwide. In Morocco the Ministry of Justice recently approved changes to the family code that would remove a provision that allows judges to permit marriages under the legal age. We are now waiting for the Moroccan Parliament to endorse these changes.
We hope you will continue to help us and to take part in our advocacy campaigns. Thank you again for your support.
Brazil – sex tourism
As mentioned in a previous update, the civil case against the sex tour operator was stayed in August 2011 pending the completion of the criminal investigation. The law firm filed a motion to lift the stay this past summer, and on November 28, 2012, the judge granted the motion lifting the stay. In his decision, the judge ruled that the pending foreign case does not require that the U.S. case be stayed. This is an exciting precedent as this is the first case to consider whether a pending criminal investigation or prosecution in a foreign country can stay a U.S. civil case brought under the federal trafficking law. We hope this precedent will help expand survivors’ rights and access to justice in the U.S.
The criminal case in Brazil is moving very slowly, but the government continues to take active steps on the issue of trafficking and child sexual exploitation. The Brazil senate is conducting a second inquiry on "child sexual exploitation" (the first inquiry was on "human trafficking"), and a group will travel to Manaus where they will be meeting with local government officials and NGOs on the issue. We have also identified a local organization that we hope to partner with on the ground.
Update on AGLDF campaigns
As part of Equality Now’s efforts with a coalition to address sexual violence against schoolgirls, we are working with a director to produce a documentary in Zambia. It will feature a case of a girl raped by her uncle that was identified in a Safe Space girls club, which is part of the project. The documentary also captures the daily activities of the Safe Space clubs and highlights other Zambian coalition activities. The film is planned to be shown on Zambian TV.
This case is going through the appeals process, and N continues to teach at a nearby school. N’s lawyer is assisting in drafting a provincial women’s bill in which she has included provisions on incest and special measures for victims of violence against women. Equality Now plans to give her feedback as well as help with any advocacy around the measure.
Brazil--Sex tourism (AGLDF)
The judge in Georgia has scheduled a hearing on the motion to lift the stay for the 16th October. Equality Now has been in contact with the Brazilian senators heading the Senate Commission on Human Trafficking who informed us that they are in the process of reviewing a draft proposed law on trafficking that they hope to finalize in October. The Senate is also discussing a general overhaul of the Brazilian Penal Code, including revisions to the provisions on human trafficking. We will continue to monitor these efforts.
The recently released 2011 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report on Brazil mentions that sex trafficking was one of the three most significant human rights abuses in Brazil and mentions the Brazil case EN has been monitoring. The report specifically states that increased efforts to curb sexual tourism in the Amazonas region of Brazil were "spurred by allegations that a foreigner operated a charter fishing operation as cover for sexual tourism that exploited young indigenous women and girls.”
Uganda--Rape of disabled girl
The initial DNA results in Sanyu’s case have arrived, and the victim’s father and two brothers who were tested are not the father of her child. However, the police did not test a third brother who had run away, and he is a suspect in the case.
Equality Now will shortly issue an action highlighting the delays in justice for Sanyu and calling on the Ugandan government to promptly arrest the third brother and conduct DNA testing at State expense. We also urge that special measures are taken in investigation of sexual violence cases against disabled victims.
Pakistan--Rape by police
While the Peshawar High court dismissed its own inquiry into Uzma Ayub’s case, her gang-rape case and her brother's murder case are still pending at the lower court.
Brazil: Sex tourism
We continue to work with a pro-bono law firm on the civil case filed on behalf of a number of girls in Brazil who were sexually exploited by a “fishing tour” company that brought American sex tourists to the Amazon. AGLDF is in contact with a number of Brazilian NGOs to try to arrange for services and vocational training for the girls who are the plaintiffs in the case.
The civil case against the sex tour operator is currently on hold pending the completion of the criminal investigation and possible prosecution, but we continue to monitor all developments.
In early 2012, Equality Now submitted a shadow report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) for its review of Brazil. As a result of the submission, the Committee questioned the Brazilian government as to what they were doing to prevent sex tourism and called on them to combat and prevent sex tourism.
Additionally, the Brazilian Senate is conducting its own inquiry into the sex tourism allegations against the operator as part of a larger inquiry into human trafficking in general, and they have held hearings during which the Brazilian co-owner of the tour operation and the Federal Police officer investigating the case testified. Equality Now was able to meet with the Brazilian delegation in charge of the issue of trafficking and lobbied them to take measures to stop the abuse of girls through sex tours.
Uganda: Rape of disabled girlEquality Now continues to support the case of N.S., a 13-year-old disabled girl who was raped and subsequently gave birth to a child in Uganda. Currently, N.S. lives in a home for the disabled, and AGLDF has provided some funding for her care.
We followed up on the DNA testing of the alleged perpetrators in the case (which AGLDF was able to successfully raise funds for as the Ugandan government refused) and were informed that the Government Chemist has still not released the results despite the fact that DNA testing was conducted almost a year ago. Equality Now, along with our Ugandan partner LAPD, plans to issue an Action on the case to our Equality Action Network calling on the government to ensure that DNA test results in this case are released immediately so that the perpetrator can be identified, arrested and prosecuted. In addition, we will ask that Ugandan authorities ensure that special measures are taken to investigate and prosecute sexual violence against disabled victims. We hope to release this action in late July/early August.
Pakistan: Gang rape by police In December 2011, we took on the case of 16-year-old Uzma Ayub who was kidnapped and gang raped by a number of men including police and army officers. Uzma became pregnant as a result of the rapes. On 9 December 2011, Uzma and her 25-year-old brother, who had been supporting her efforts for justice, were attacked outside a local courthouse, and Uzma's brother was brutally shot dead. The High Court took notice of the case and called for thorough inquiries and strict action against all perpetrators and the police officers who failed to take action in both the rape and murder cases. Fourteen arrests were made.
On 19 June, the Peshawar High Court in Pakistan dismissed its December 2011 inquiry into this case reportedly because of inconclusive DNA and lie-detector test results. Uzma's gang-rape case and her brother's murder case are still pending at the lower court, and Equality Now and our partners are strategizing on next steps.
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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Program Officer for Sexual Violence, Trafficking and FGM