In July 2008, the Attorney General of Zambia filed a notice of appeal in R.M.’s case, but no brief on the grounds for appeal has been filed. The AGLDF continues to monitor this situation and will provide legal support should the government appeal move forward.
In 2008, the AGLDF’s Zambian consultant convened a coalition of Zambian organizations (the “Coalition”) working to address human rights abuses against girls and respond strategically to R.M.’s case. This experience illustrated to Coalition members the need for effective solutions to prevent other cases like R.M.’s, educate the public, provide girls with services, and empower them to claim their rights. Accordingly, the Coalition members pledged to strengthen and coordinate their efforts and created a work plan that they are in the process of implementing.
Additional progress made includes the Ministry of Education asking Equality Now/AGLDF and Coalition members to help in drafting guidelines to prevent violence against girls in school.
Our second case addresses the practice of abduction and rape to coerce marriage in Ethiopia. Typically, a girl is abducted by a group of young men and raped by the man who wants to marry her, who may be someone she knows or a total stranger, which is what happened to Woineshet Zebene Negash at age 13. Luckily, her father supported her through the ordeal, and she was not forced to stay with her abductor; but in many cases, the family consents to a marriage because a girl who has lost her virginity is socially unacceptable to another man.
In 2003, Woineshet’s rapist was convicted and sentenced to ten years imprisonment and his accomplices sentenced to eight years for abduction, but all were subsequently released on appeal. Woineshet further appealed to no avail and the file was closed by the Cassation Bench of the Oromia Supreme Court in December 2005. Advocacy efforts by the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA), supported by an international Equality Now campaign begun in 2002, led to Ethiopia abolishing the law in 2005 that provided for exemption from punishment in cases of abduction and rape if the rapist subsequently married his victim.
The AGLDF and EWLA, continue to aid Woineshet in her pursuit of justice. In 2007, we filed a complaint with the African Commission on behalf of Woineshet arguing that the Ethiopian government’s failure to punish Woineshet’s rapist is a violation of its obligations under the African Charter. Currently, at the request of the Ethiopian government, we are negotiating an amicable settlement on Woineshet’s behalf with the Ethiopian government.
FGM in Kenya
Finally, the AGLDF is monitoring the case of a young Maasai girl who bled to death after being subjected to FGM in Kenya. The circumciser and the girl’s father were arrested and are facing manslaughter charges. This may be one of the first prosecutions of a circumciser and a parent in the Maasai community. The AGLDF retained a lawyer to help the prosecution bring a successful case (public prosecutors in Kenya are often not lawyers themselves), and we will follow the case until a judgement is rendered. It will become an AGLDF case if there is an acquittal of the parent and the circumciser because the girl indisputably died as a result of undergoing FGM, and an acquittal would show that the FGM law is not being properly implemented and enforced and the case would continue to appeal.
Potential New Cases
Equality Now is actively looking into violations of girls’ rights and potential cases for the AGLDF in the following countries:
• FGM in Mali
• Intimidation and violence in Swat, Pakistan and denial of right to education
• Incest in Yemen and incest in Pakistan