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 CNN.com: http://bit.ly/115ta1R
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.
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