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.
Incest in Pakistan:
N was the victim of brutal incest by her father, and with the support of her mother and her mother’s family, insisted on pursuing her case, even as the police tried to discourage her from making a statement. Currently, N is reunited and living with her mother and all of her siblings and has just finished her 9th grade board exams.
The case is now in trial and a number of hearings have taken place. Unfortunately, the previous Superintendent Police (SP), who was sympathetic to N’s case, was reassigned, and a new SP was appointed. Luckily, before leaving, the SP declared the perpetrator guilty in his final police report, and N’s lawyer is working towards getting this report admitted as evidence into the trial.
N’s aunt and uncle from her father‘s side and her teacher have also changed their testimony, which has hampered the trial. N’s lawyer predicts that this will be a long and slow trial, and Equality Now plans to visit Pakistan to continue to assist in the case, including by monitoring court proceedings.
FGM in Kenya:
AGLDF was monitoring a case of a 10-year-old Maasai girl who bled to death after being subjected to FGM in Kenya. Her father and the circumciser were arrested but subsequently absconded. AGLDF and our local partner Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative (TNI) put pressure on the police to find the perpetrators, and they were finally arrested in February 2010. Both pled guilty to manslaughter, and on April 1, 2010 each was sentenced to ten years in prison. This case was important in demonstrating to the Maasai community that the Kenyan law enforcement system is serious about the implementation of the anti-FGM law. In addition, it helped raise awareness of the potentially deadly consequences of the practice.
During our intervention with the Kenyan police in this case, we realized that police officers responsible for implementing the anti-FGM law have limited knowledge of the law as well as of the harmful consequences of FGM. As a result, while the legal case has ended, Equality Now and its Kenyan partner TNI continue to follow up with the police in order to encourage them to hold training session on these matters.
Abduction and rape to force marriage in Ethiopia:
Since friendly negotiations with the Ethiopian government have failed to produce a reasonable settlement for Woineshet, Equality Now is requesting that the African Commission declare the case admissible.
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.
Leah Ambwaya is a professional evaluator working with Excelsior who is visiting and assessing a number of GlobalGiving projects in Kenya. On June 4th she visited Adolescent Girls' Legal Defense Fund. When asked what she would tell her friends about this project, Leah said: "Incredible: You need to see this!”
On the 4th of June 2009 we visited Equality Now offices in the upper market parts of Nairobi.
As we enter the office we are received by Mary, who exclaims, “you look familiar! Did I meet you in some office that deals with children?”
I quickly realize that when you are a rights activist you can not hide. So I admit. I am no longer working in the same office, but I am still working with children on issues of realizing their rights.
Apparently our host could hear the conversation form the next office. She comes out and introduces herself as Faiza Mohamed. She ushers our team into her office. She is soft spoken but portrays an “ON YOUR MARKS” stature, ready to respond, ready to move. I could only conclude that the issues that she deals with in her cause of duty demand a soldiers’ heart - ready all the time.
This office is striking in a special way, in that there are wall size hangings with messages on women and girls rights. I notice on the wall a message "stop FGM."
Faiza is so passionate about her work, she shares her experience right from inception of the organization and the journey that she has walked in advocating for the rights of women and girls in Africa. Faiza is so proud of her work that she does not dwell on the challenges that she has faced but rather how she has handled them. Words like communities, engagement, pushing, empowering dominate her speech - an indication that she appreciates partnerships.
The cases of children in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia where landmark court rulings have been made in favor of girls criss-cross her lips behind a smile of “yes we did it again!” She is truly a marathon runner who has won several gold medals in the Olympics. She says, "Court rulings are not final. We must fight for compensation for these girls, so I have gone back to court for the girl in Ethiopia to be compensated and even given a job. We can’t stop at conviction alone.”
This lady is in control of her work, she gives us a VCD to watch. “This is a documentary about all the work that we have done with GG related funds.” She give s us examples of work the organization has done in Uganda. After putting pressure on the government, a law was passed to recognize a woman as a co-owner of the family property. She says that best practices have been recorded in Marakwet, Kenya, where girls took their parents to court. Elsewhere in Narok, the body of a girl was exhumed and the parent charged with murder. In order not to destroy the community cultural fabric, community reconciliation meetings have been held in Narok. She cites the case of Tasaru, a girls' safe house in Narok which is something that can be replicated in other areas where FGM is being practiced. However she laments that although some Governments have been pressured and good laws have been passed, laws enforced in most countries have not changed the mind set, and so they are trying to focus more training for the police and paralegals.
Coalitions have been formed in program areas like Tanzania, and Uganda. In Eritrea, more focus has been put on the youth as the drivers for change. These young people have formed anti-FGM clubs in school. In Zambia, a girl who had been raped sued both the government and the teacher who had raped her. A landmark ruling again was made by the courts in favor of the girl and an award of 14,000 USD equivalents was given to the girl. In the ruling, the ministry of education was ordered to put systems for the protection of girls in schools. This case brought out the responsibility of the state very clearly in Zambia.
Mary spoke of the first case of a girl taken to the African commission in Ethiopia, but she cautions that she can not discuss the case, since it is pending before the African commission.
We inquire on the level of community partnerships, and she is upbeat about it. “For substance in our work, communities must be engaged at all levels. Formations of coalitions in most of the countries have borne a lot of positive fruit. Professionals have given their services pro-bono.” This woman believes in the strength of numbers to be able to achieve results.
After, we talk to Mary Ciuru who is the administration and Liaison officer about her role in achieving the goals of the organization. She upbeat about it, saying, “I have to understand programmes in order to link them with the funds. When my colleagues come back from the field, I must be able to understand the dynamics of community needs and link them to funds and also just to be sure that funds are being put to good use. I must understand why sometimes I have to process a travel arrangement on short notice; all these dynamics dictate that I must understand the work of programs to some level."
As I leave that office, I conclude one thing, this organization has a team of strong willed women, who will stop at nothing in the realization of women and girls rights, and they are a formidable team, they are achievers.
Mike Acton and Christine Illanes are students who traveled throughout Africa and visited a number of GlobalGiving projects. On March 19th they visited "Adolescent Girls' Legal Defense Fund." When asked what they would tell their friends about this project, Michael said “It's a good project," while Christine said "Incredible: You need to see this!"
We met with Carolina at the Equality Now Kenya office to discuss the organization and a couple of their projects in the field. The office was relaxed but full of activity. While Equality Now in Kenya understands the importance of project updates and the need to share the stories of the work they are doing in the field, the fact is that Equality Now Kenya is a branch of International Equality Now organization and much of the interaction between Equality Now and Global Giving occurs from the New York Headquarters.
Nevertheless, Equality Now Kenya is working on several projects including finding funding to assist disadvantaged women fight forced marriage, abduction, rape and mutilation. Due to the nature and location of their project as well as our compressed schedule, it was not possible to visit beneficiaries.
Equality Now is an organization that funnels funding to grassroots, community groups that others would be unable to get donations. I spoke with Caroline Murithi, a program officer with Equality Now, who told me that her concern for women started young when she noticed that tragedy always seemed to follow girls and that when bad things happened to women it was always the women’s fault according to society.
She wanted to work for an organization that helped women's groups reach their potential. She views the largest challenges to be cultural and religious resistance, as well as a lack of general political will, against women’s rights and equality in Kenya.
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Program Officer for Sexual Violence, Trafficking and FGM