Defend the Human Rights of Adolescent Girls

by Equality Now



Update on AGLDF campaigns


Yemen – child marriage: Equality Now and partners in Yemen have been pushing for a child marriage law in Yemen since 2009 . In a promising development Yemeni Human Rights Minister Hooria Mashhour in September 2013 requested the reintroduction of a parliamentary bill that would effectively ban child marriages in the country. Equality Now and our partner YWU support the Minister in her efforts and we issued an update highlighting a number of child marriage cases and supporting the efforts of the Yemeni Human Rights Minister in calling for renewed discussion of the child marriage legislation. We are hopeful that a draft bill setting a minimum age of marriage will soon be considered and passed.

You can read commentary on this development from Equality Now’s Suad Abu-Dayyeh:


Egypt - FGM: We would also like to share details of a new campaign we have undertaken on FGM in Egypt. In June of this year, 13-year-old Soheir died after a doctor performed female genital mutilation (FGM) on her at the behest of her father in a clinic in Cairo. The doctor who performed the procedure was interrogated by prosecutors and released on bail pending investigation. 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.

Our Middle East consultant traveled to Egypt and met with lawyers from both the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA) and the Egyptian Coalition for Children’s Rights (ECCR) who are pushing for both the father and doctor to be prosecuted for FGM and manslaughter. We are working with them on pushing this case forward and we issued an Action on the case in July 2013. Progress has been slow due to the political situation in Egypt but we have recently learned that the medical report has been released and are strategizing with partners on next steps in the case.


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 exploited in prostitution by a “fishing tour” company that brought American sex tourists to the Amazon. The stay in the civil case against the sex tour operator was lifted in November 2012 and although the defendant is appealing, his lawyers have reached out to us about a possible settlement. Our NY Director and the pro bono attorney in the case traveled to Manaus at the end of February 2013 and again in October 2013 to meet with the plaintiffs and our partner, IACAS.  During the October trip, the plaintiffs were interested in settling the case, as this will bring about a quicker resolution, and the pro bono lawyer will continue negotiation with the defendant’s attorney to arrive at an agreed figure. A mandatory mediation has been ordered by the U.S. court for early December 2013 to encourage settlement negotiations before the case potentially goes to trial. 


The 4 plaintiffs are still dealing with the trauma from their exploitation and Equality Now has arranged for them to receive weekly counseling sessions with assistance from our NGO partner and a consultant. As a result of awareness created by the Brazil case a recent public hearing was held in Manaus about commercial sexual exploitation of children at which posters and leaflets on the issue were handed out. In addition a law was recently passed that requires fishing guides (some of whom were luring girls onto boats to be exploited) to register and take a course on children’s rights and accountability. We also recently learned that Nick Kristof’s Half the Sky initiative is exploring taking a trip to Brazil to possibly include this story in a second book.



Thanks for your support! 

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

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:

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


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.  


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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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