Defend the Human Rights of Adolescent Girls

 
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October 11 is International Day of the Girl Child, a day of advocacy and action by and for girls. Leading up to this year’s celebration, Equality Now is getting ready to launch a new report on early marriage, which excludes girls from decisions regarding the timing of marriage, choice of spouse and participation in sexual relations and often leads to a life of constant violence and discrimination. This report provides recommendations on the legal provisions necessary to challenge child marriage based on a study of marital laws and their enforcement in 16 countries. We will share this report when it is available in a later update.

In the meantime, we are excited to share with our GlobalGiving supporters a recent success in our efforts to Defend the Rights of Adolescent Girls. Following the successfully divorce of Fatima in Saudi Arabia, who was sold into marriage at the age of 12, the Saudi Ministry of Justice proposed new regulations on the marriage of girls, setting 16 as the minimum age of marriage. Once approved by the Saudi parliament, the proposed law on a minimum age of marriage will leave Yemen as the only country in the world without a codified minimum age of marriage. Equality Now is currently working with the Yemen Women Union to push for a minimum age of marriage law. Although it doesn’t reach the internationally recognized standard of 18, this proposed law in Saudi Arabia is a start and helps girls like Fatima and countless others around the world to finally access the basic freedom to live meaningful and empowered. You can read commentary on this development from Equality Now’s Suad Abu-Dayyeh on CNN.com: http://bit.ly/115ta1R

Meanwhile, in Zambia, following the landmark decision by the High Court in R.M.’s case, the Ministry of Education has drafted the mandated school guidelines on sexual violence. Once adopted, these guidelines will ensure that the Zambian legal and educational systems properly handle cases of rape in educational institutions and particularly by teachers. We are in the final stages of our project with the Tisunga Ana AthuaAkazi (“Lets Protect Our Girl Children”) coalition to set up “safe spaces” to give girls a system of referrals and empowerment, as well as boys’ networks that address gender stereotypes and violence against girls. The most recent evaluation of the project found that it had heightened public awareness of the issue, increased knowledge among girls of their rights, and created an enabling environment of response and engagement of a range of stakeholders to act in synergy towards a common goal.

Read more about Equality Now over the past 20 years in our latest Annual Report: http://bit.ly/164RgMH

Thanks for your support and let us know how you are planning to celebrate International Day of the Girl Child!

Links:

Update on AGLDF campaigns

Uganda--Rape of disabled girl: As mentioned in a previous update the government chemist finally released the DNA
results in Sanyu’s case, which pointed to the likelihood that the one brother who had not been tested was the perpetrator and the father of Sanyu’s child. Unfortunately that brother was found dead two months ago. Our partner LAPD has requested to have the body exhumed to conduct DNA testing but the police are not responsive. We are now considering finding a pro bono attorney to take the case on and possibly sue the government for failing to properly investigate the case. 

Pakistan--Rape by police: As we pointed out in the previous update, the High Court found there was no evidence of rape and remanded the case to the lower court. In February, the lower court dismissed all the charges in Uzma’s case. Uzma was offered a job by the police which she has accepted. Our partners are trying to get the job transferred to Islamabad as the situation remains dangerous for her in her hometown.

Brazil--Sex tourism: Our NY Director Lauren, and the pro bono attorney in the case traveled to Manaus at the end of February to meet with the plaintiffs and our partner, IACAS.  Equality Now will be providing more victim support to the women for psychological counseling and education and we will also be writing a letter on behalf of the girls to the local social welfare office to help the girls receive better housing and other needed support from the government. In the meantime, the prosecutors in the Brazilian criminal case will be sending their evidence to help us build our civil case and we have also partnered with a Brazilian law firm in order to help push the Brazil criminal case.
Additionally, the Brazilian Senate finished its own inquiry into the sex tourism allegations against the man who ran the fishing company as part of a larger inquiry into human trafficking in general and has completed a report. We
are reviewing the report and its recommendations, which are in Portuguese, and will then determine where to focus our advocacy efforts.

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

Zambia—Teacher Rape

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.

Pakistan--Incest

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. 

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Organization

Equality Now

New York, NY, United States
http://www.equalitynow.org

Project Leader

Helen Stewart

New York, NY United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Defend the Human Rights of Adolescent Girls