Defend the Human Rights of Adolescent Girls

by Equality Now

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.


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. 

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 sexually exploited by a “fishing tour” company that brought American sex tourists to the Amazon.  AGLDF is in contact with a number of Brazilian NGOs to try to arrange for services and vocational training for the girls who are the plaintiffs in the case.

The civil case against the sex tour operator is currently on hold pending the completion of the criminal  investigation and possible prosecution, but we continue to monitor all developments.

In early 2012, Equality Now submitted a shadow report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) for its review of Brazil. As a result of the submission, the Committee questioned the Brazilian government as to what they were doing to prevent sex tourism and called on them to combat and prevent sex tourism.

Additionally, the Brazilian Senate is conducting its own inquiry into the sex tourism allegations against the operator as part of a larger inquiry into human trafficking in general, and they have held hearings during which the Brazilian co-owner of the tour operation and the Federal Police officer investigating the case testified. Equality Now was able to meet with  the Brazilian delegation in charge of the issue of trafficking and lobbied them to take measures to stop the abuse of girls through sex tours.

Uganda: Rape of disabled girl
Now continues to support the case of N.S., a 13-year-old disabled girl who was raped and subsequently gave birth to a child in Uganda. Currently, N.S. lives in a home for the disabled, and AGLDF has provided some funding for her care.

We followed up on the DNA testing of the alleged perpetrators in the case (which AGLDF was able to successfully raise funds for as the Ugandan government refused) and were informed that the Government Chemist has still not released the results despite the fact that DNA testing was conducted almost a year ago.  Equality Now, along with our Ugandan partner LAPD, plans to issue an Action on the case to our Equality Action Network calling on the  government to ensure that DNA test results in this case are released immediately so that the perpetrator can be identified, arrested and prosecuted. In addition, we will ask that Ugandan authorities ensure that special measures are taken to investigate and prosecute sexual violence against disabled victims. We hope to release this action in late July/early August.

Pakistan:  Gang rape by police                                                                                           
In December 2011, we took on the case of 16-year-old Uzma Ayub who was kidnapped and gang raped by a number of men including police and army officers. Uzma became pregnant as a result of the rapes. On 9 December 2011, Uzma and her 25-year-old brother, who had been supporting her efforts for justice, were attacked outside a local courthouse, and Uzma's brother was brutally shot dead. The High Court took notice of the case and called for thorough inquiries and strict action against all perpetrators and the police officers who failed to take action in both the rape and murder cases. Fourteen arrests were made.

On 19 June, the Peshawar High Court in Pakistan dismissed its December 2011 inquiry into this case reportedly because of inconclusive DNA and lie-detector test results.  Uzma's gang-rape case and her brother's murder case are still pending at the lower court, and Equality Now and our partners are strategizing on next steps.

Representing the knowledge gained from cases undertaken as part of Equality Now’s Adolescent Girls’ Legal Defense Fund (AGLDF), this report identifies and addresses the common obstacles faced by adolescent girls in their pursuit of justice. Since its inception in 2008, the AGLDF has taken up nine cases involving various forms of sexual violence, the most common abuse suffered by girls, in seven countries. This paper consolidates and aggregates the lessons learned from these cases in our effort to establish legal precedents to prevent and better address future violations of girls’ rights.


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.


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.



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Equality Now

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

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