Defend the Human Rights of Adolescent Girls

Jan 24, 2012

AGLDF Update: January 2012

AGLDF Project Learnings

Equality Now is finalizing a report that compiles information from the eight cases AGLDF has taken up in seven countries. The point of the paper is to identify commonalities between the cases to shape our future action and advocacy. To review, the cases are:

Ethiopia - Rape, abduction and forced marriage – Since 2002, Equality Now has been involved in the case of W. N., who at the age of 13 was abducted twice, raped and forced to sign a marriage contract.Our goal is to ensure that there were laws against abduction, rape and forced marriage and that these laws were implemented to eradicate this harmful practice.

Zambia - Rape by teachers - Equality Now has been actively supporting a case involving the rape of a 13-year-old girl, R. M., by her teacher in 2006. Our goal is to ensure that the Zambian legal and educational systems properly handle cases of rape in educational institutions and particularly by teachers.

Kenya – Female genital mutilation (FGM) - Equality Now worked with our Kenyan partner Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative (TNI), on the case of S. N., a 12-year-old girl from the Maasai community who bled to death on August 18, 2008, after being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). Our goal is to ensure that the government takes FGM cases seriously and properly prosecutes the perpetrators so that deterrent effect of the FGM law is achieved.

Pakistan – Incest – In 2009, Equality Now with its partner War Against Rape (WAR), Lahore, took on the case of N, a 15-year-old Pakistani girl and the oldest of six children, who was raped by her father. Our goal is to set a legal precedent on incestual rape, address barriers to access to justice for survivors of sexual violence and ultimately reform the Pakistan Penal Code to add a provision on incest.

Yemen – Child Marriage - In 2010, with our partner Yemen Women Union (YWU), we took on the case of 11-year-old M who, in 2009, was taken out of school and married off by her father to a 40-year-old farmer. Our goal is to establish the right of child brides to get a divorce without having to pay compensation to their husbands and to ultimately establish a law banning child marriage in Yemen.

Brazil – Sex Tourism - In 2010, Equality Now helped facilitate a civil case in the US on behalf of a number of Brazilian girls who were sexually exploited by clients of a fishing tour company in Brazil run by a US citizen. Our goal is to establish a precedent under the civil remedy provision of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) to encourage other victims to bring such cases and to serve as a deterrent for perpetrators.

Kenya – Gang Rape - In 2010, Equality Now took on a case with the Federation of Women Lawyers, Kenya (FIDA-Kenya), involving the gang-rape of Z.A., a 17-year-old girl in Kisumu, Kenya. Our goal is to set a precedent on police responsibility to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of sexual violence and protect girls.

Uganda – Rape of disabled girl – In 2010, with Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities (LAPD), we took on the case of a severely disabled girl who became pregnant as a result of the rape but could not identify her rapist and the Ugandan government refused to pay for DNA testing.  Our goal is to establish a precedent for government responsibility to take additional steps to investigate cases of sexual violence against disabled victims.

In helping the plaintiffs from around the world seek justice and navigate complex legal systems, we have learned the following: 

  • Girls need knowledge of their rights before they can access them.
  • Girls need a supportive environment where they can voice their concerns/violations of rights without fear of stigma or disbelief.
  • Girls who are victims of sexual violence, in particular, need assurance that they will not be re-victimized through the legal system.
  • Girls need assurance that access to justice will be swift so that they can continue with their lives.
  • Girls need support services that are girl-centered and sensitive to their specific needs with a focus on empowering the victim and giving her agency and the ability to make her own decisions.

Case Progress

In January, AGLDF traveled to Pakistan to follow-up on the incest case as well as investigate a potential new case involving a girl kidnapped and raped by a group of policemen.  During this trip, ourcomprehensive report on incest, done in conjunction with local partners, was finalized and printed, and it is being distributed to relevant stakeholders and NGOs throughout Pakistan. Additionally, staff met with two high court judges to discuss prodecural updates that would help and protect victims as they take cases through the courts as well as to continue to call for a provision on incest in the penal code.

Oct 18, 2011

AGLDF Case Progress: October 2011


AGLDF has facilitated a civil case under the TVPA in the U.S. on behalf of Brazilian girls who were sexually exploited by clients of a U.S. fishing tour company engaged in sex tourism. This company was run by a U.S. citizen who brought American tourists on fishing trips to the Amazon. The owner and his employees would lure  local girls--some as young as 13—onto his boats where the girls were forced to have sex with the tourists.

  •  In June, AGLDF assisted the lawyers in filing the suit in Atlanta; the case was stayed in August at the request of the defendant until a related criminal investigation has been completed. The filing brought significant international media coverage that featured Equality Now/AGLDF, including an article in the New York Times.
  • Due to the media exposure, the Minister of Women’s Policies in Brazil stated that she would investigate sex tourism in the region of Amazonas and look into forming a committee to address the issue, and the Brazilian Federal Police stated that they were now investigating 20 customers and potential ‘johns’ who went on the defendant’s fishing tours to Brazil.
  • Additionally, Equality Now has found out that Brazilian Senate is conducting its own inquiry into this particular case, and they have held hearings during which the Brazilian co-owner of the travel agency testified and the Federal Police confirmed the sale of the tour packages.


AGLDF continues to work on the case in Uganda of N.S., a severely disabled girl, who was raped by a family member in 2007 when she was 13. Our goal in this case is to establish a precedent for government responsibility to take additional steps to investigate and prosecute cases of sexual violence against disabled victims.

Since the last update, AGLDF and our partner Legal Action for Persons with Disabilities (LAPD) Uganda has pushed for DNA testing of the father and brothers and for the prosecution of the perpetrator. We successfully raised funds for the testing, and after sustained advocacy with Ugandan authorities the case was reopened. The suspects were apprehended on 24 August 2011, and DNA samples taken. Additionally, the police took DNA samples from N.S. and her baby and these have been taken to the government chemist for review. We are still awaiting the results.


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.


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.

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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Equality Now

New York, NY, United States

Project Leader

Corey Calabrese

Program Officer for Sexual Violence, Trafficking and FGM
New York, NY United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Defend the Human Rights of Adolescent Girls