Defend the Human Rights of Adolescent Girls

by Equality Now
Vetted

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.

Links:

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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Organization Information

Equality Now

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

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