Defend the Human Rights of Adolescent Girls

by Equality Now
UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran
UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran

Thank you, you help us make the impossible possible!

Last year in Sudan, “Yaya,” a 19-year-old pregnant woman while house hunting in Omdurman, Sudan was lured to an empty property and brutally gang-raped by a group of seven men, aged 19 to 22. Immediately following the attack, a police officer found the distraught victim but didn’t file a formal complaint of rape because it was a public holiday and the police station was closed. Disturbingly, the rapists filmed the attack, which later surfaced via social media.  After learning of the film, the authorities ultimately arrested everyone involved, including the victim. Sudan’s Attorney General had – without legal basis – blocked her from filing a rape complaint on the basis that she was under investigation for the criminal offense of offending public morality. At one point, she even faced a sentence of death by stoning for adultery, as the prosecutor debated her marital status before affirming that she was divorced.

Yet she would not be silenced—and neither would her supporters around the world. With the help of local nonprofit organizations, we sent nearly 15,000 letters to Sudanese officials, calling on them to help survivors of sexual assault, not criminalize them.

The result? Laws were changed. Rape survivors in the Sudan will no longer be brought up on charges simply for being assaulted. And Yaya is free from prosecution and able to raise her son in a safer, more promising world.

Thank you for being an agent of change and making equality a reality for women and girls, everywhere.


Soheir al-Bataa died during an FGM procedure
Soheir al-Bataa died during an FGM procedure

Thank you!

With your support and continued advocacy, we have been working on behalf of courageous young women around the world.

We are thrilled to report that the appeal in our campaign to get Justice for Soheir was successful! In January, the appeals court in Mansoura sentenced Dr. Fadl to two years in jail for manslaughter and three months for performing female genital mutilation (FGM). Soheir's father received a three-month suspended sentence under the anti-FGM law. The case was the first time that the 2008 law was used. The doctor's clinic, where the FGM was performed, was also ordered to be shut down for one year.

This first ever FGM trial in Egypt is hugely important in a country that has the highest number of affected women and girls in the world. It is also extremely significant that a medical professional was sentenced as medicalization of FGM in Egypt is very high -- more than 75% of cases are performed by medical practitioners. With these convictions, Egypt is sending a strong message that FGM will not be tolerated and puts medical practitioners on notice.

This will be an important stepping stone towards ending this extreme human rights violation once and for all. 

Soheir was just one of an estimated 125 million women worldwide who have undergone some form of FGM. Of those, 1 in 5 lives in Egypt. We estimate that 91 percent of Egypt's female population has undergone the procedure which often involves cutting off parts of the female genitalia and, in some cultures, sewing together the labia and is sometimes practiced under the belief that it may prevent extramarital sexual activity.

Thank you for believing in Equality Now and our work to defend the rights of adolescent girls like Soheir.

Read more about this groundbreaking case in the Guardian, Al Jazeera, New York Times and BuzzFeedNews.


Justice for Liz rally
Justice for Liz rally

Thank you for being an agent of change for women and girls everywhere!

With your support, we have been working  on behalf of courageous young women around the world.

In Kenya, sixteen-year-old Liz was gang raped while walking home from her grandfather’s funeral. Following the rape the perpetrators dumped Liz, unconscious and battered, down a pit latrine. Liz was ultimately rescued by nearby villagers and the attack was reported at the Tingolo Administration Police Camp the next day. Three of the suspects were apprehended, but the police officer on duty astonishingly recorded the attack as a mere “assault.” After completing their “punishment” of cutting the grass outside the police station, all the men were released from custody. As a result of the attack, Liz was confined to a wheelchair and developed obstetric fistula. Since the launch of the global #JusticeForLiz campaign and release of our action,  Kenyan officials have upgraded the charges against all the suspects and the trial began in June (to be resumed in September). Liz is now recovering after surgery and recently began walking again. She remains hopeful despite threats against her and her family for speaking out. After Equality Now’s advocacy, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has begun detailing almost 100 additional rape cases that have been identified by our local partners  as not being investigated and/or in which the identified suspects had not been arrested. The DPP subsequently has called for “speedy and thorough investigations” into the cases and appointed a team from the DPP’s Sexual and Gender Based Violence unit to provide guidance.

Thank you for believing in the importance of our work to defend the rights of adolescent girls like Liz, and for helping us to protect them from this and other harmful traditional practices.


Thank you for being a champion for Equality Now’s Adolescent Girls’ Legal Defense Fund (AGLDF)!

Because of donors like you, Equality Now is supporting the efforts of courageous women like Jaha and 45 young girls from the Pokot and Narok district in Kenya that fled their homes to prevent being mutilated.

Jaha experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) as an infant in Gambia.  FGM is a harmful cultural tradition performed in many countries, in some cultures to keep girls “marriageable.”   However, no one told Jaha the reason she had been mutilated was to guarantee her virginity before marriage. She learned this in a Manhattan doctor’s office at age 15 when she was forced into a marriage to a 45-year-old man. Jaha then had to go through a re-opening process, which felt like undergoing FGM again.

There are millions of girls like Jaha, whose young bodies have been permanently altered without their permission and often against their will.  The devastating effects can last a lifetime.  Now 24 and living in Atlanta, Jaha with the support of Equality Now has launched a campaign with an online petition, asking Congress to fund the necessary studies to determine how many girls are at risk of FGM in the United States so that the 2013 law protecting girls and signed by President Obama can be enforced. 


Egypt - FGM:  As you may know from previous reports, our Middle East consultant traveled to Egypt and met with lawyers from our partner organizations, the Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance (CEWLA) and the Egyptian Coalition for Children's Rights (ECCR) to work with them on the case of 13-year-old Soheir, who died after a doctor performed female genital mutilation (FGM) on her at the behest of her father in a clinic in Cairo.  Soheir's death highlights the immediate need for effective implementation of the 2008 FGM law in Egypt with 72% of procedures being performed by doctors in private clinics.

The doctor was interrogated and released on bail pending an investigation.  In July 2013, in collaboration with our partners, we issued an Action supporting their call for the father and doctor to be prosecuted for FGM and manslaughter. After issuing an Action Update in December 2013 (accessible here), urging the government to live up to its national and international obligations, the Ministry of Health and Population closed the doctor's clinic on February 5, 2014 pending further investigation by the Attorney General.  The Egyptian Medical Syndicate will also conduct a professional ethics investigation into the doctor's actions.

Equality Now will continue to work with our local Egyptian partners to monitor these investigations to ensure that they are properly conducted and that those responsible for Soheir's mutilation and death are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  As medicalization of FGM is on the rise in Egypt, please continue to keep the pressure on officials to effectively enforce Egypt's anti-FGM law and full prosecute all violators.

Protecting the Girl Child:  Using the Law to End Child, Early and Forced Marriage and Related Human Rights Violations

Building on the body of Equality Now's work for the protection of girls' and women's rights, Equality Now's report (accessible here) illustrates the impact of child marriage on a girl's young life through case studies of Jamila married at age 10 and Sahar married at age 12 in Afghanistan; Perpetua married off at birth in Cameroon; Leila and Adriana both married at 14 in Guatemala; Asman in India married at 15; Rawan married at 16 in Jordan, Evelyn in Kenya who escaped marriage at 14 years old; Beatrice married at 14 in Malawi, Mariam married in 14 in Mali; Khadijetou married at 8 and Minetou married at 12 in Mauritania; Dewan in Papua New Guinea who barely escaped marriage, Hind from Syria married at 14; and Lulu married at 14 in Tanzania.  These were provided by our local partners who also made recommendations to their governments on critical steps to tackle the issue.  Issued on February 18, 2014, the report calls on all governments to support a comprehensive response to end child marriage and ensure a girl is healthy, safe, educated and empowered and her rights are protected.

"Child marriage directly affects approximately 14 million girls a year.  It legitimizes human rights violations and the abuse of girls under the guise of culture, honor, tradition, and religion.  It is part of a sequence of discrimination that begins at a girl's birth and continues throughout her entire life.  Furthermore, when  child bride gives birth, the vicious cycle of poverty, poor health, curtailed education, violence, instability, disregard for the rule of law and legal and other discrimination often continues into the next generation, especially for any daughters she may  have," said Jacqui Hunt, London Director, Equality Now.

Brazil - Sex Tourism:  We continue to work with a pro bono law firm on the civil case filed on behalf of several Brazilian girls who were sexually exploited by clients of a U.S. fishing tour company that ran sex tours to the Amazon. Employees of the company are alleged to have lured minors from nearby communities onto the fishing tour boats, where the girls were subsequently raped by clients of the fishing tours.  Oral argument on the defendant's appeal of the decision lifting the stay in the U.S. civil case took place in early January.  We hope to hear a positive decision saying that the case can move forward from the appeal court soon,

There has been significant attention in Amazonas recently regarding the significant delays in cases of child sexual exploitation in the Amazonas courts, including the criminal case against the defendant in our civil case.  Local and federal politicians are looking into this matter, and the Brazilian National Council of Justice has investigated these delays.  Our partner in Manaus, IACAS, has led efforts to call attention to this issue.  We have supported their efforts by sending a letter to Brazilian officials calling for them to immediately address the delays in these cases.

Thank you for your support of the AGLDF program, and thank you for your belief in the importance of our work.


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Organization Information

Equality Now

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Helen Stewart
New York, NY United States

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