Sexual violence

Saudi Arabia: End Child Marriages and Male Guardianship over Women

Action Number: 
31.3
Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2010 Nov 29
Update Date: 
2012 Nov 6
Update: 

UPDATE 20 MARCH 2013: The judge heard Fatima’s case earlier than expected and in November 2012, issued divorce papers without requiring repayment of the dower. After a required 90-day waiting period, Fatima’s divorce was finalized on 10 February. We will continue to work with Saudi activists to get a ban on child marriage in Saudi Arabia.


UPDATE 6 NOVEMBER 2012: Our Saudi Arabian partners have recently informed us that as of May 2011, 12-year-old child bride Fatima is back at home with her family and has refused to go back to her husband; she is attempting to get a divorce with the support of her uncle. Her husband wants her to move back to his house when she is older, and says that he will not grant her a divorce unless he is paid a large amount of money.  A judge has scheduled the first hearing in her divorce case for 12 December 2012.

We are strategizing with our partners on legal support services for Fatima so that she can continue pursuing the divorce case. However we are concerned that the judge will rule against her unless she can find a way to pay back the dower her father has already spent. Please continue to take action and keep pressure on the King of Saudi Arabia to issue an edict banning child marriages by establishing 18 years as a minimum age of marriage, and providing punishments for adults who enter into or facilitate such unions. Call upon him to annul the marriages of child brides whose marriage contracts have been executed but who have yet to be handed over to their husbands, and to ensure that child brides already living with their husbands are given the means to annul their marriages.


Equality Now has been informed of several cases of Saudi girls being married off at the behest of their male guardians. The most recent case concerns 12-year-old Fatima from Najran who was married on 5 October 2010 to a 50 year old man who already has a wife and ten children, most much older than Fatima. Her father Ali, who is unemployed and addicted to drugs, sold her in marriage for a sum of 40,000 Saudi Riyals (approximately US$ 10,665), which he used to buy himself a car. Reportedly, Fatima’s husband bought her a PlayStation as a wedding gift.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the King of Saudi Arabia asking him to issue an edict banning child marriages by establishing 18 years as a minimum age of marriage and providing punishments for those who enter into or facilitate such unions. Call upon him to take urgent action to annul the marriages of child brides whose marriage contracts have been executed but who have yet to be handed over to their husbands, and to ensure that child brides already living with their husbands are given a real choice to annul their marriages. Please urge him to ensure that the system of male guardianship over women is abolished so that Saudi women secure the right, among other things, to enter into marriages of their choice. In this respect, urge him to support the establishment of a codified personal status law to guarantee the rights of women in marriage and divorce, ensuring that such a law is based upon principles of equality and non-discrimination. Please send a similar letter to the Minister of Justice and a copy to the Human Rights Commission. TAKE ACTION!

Letters should go to:

His Majesty, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 491 2726

His Excellency Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Elkarim
Abdul Azziz El Issa
Minister of Justice
University Street, Riyadh 11137
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 401 1741

With a copy to:

The Human Rights Commission
P.O. Box 58889 Riyadh 11515
King Fahed Street, Building 373, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Email: hrc@haq-ksa.org

Letters: 

[His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 491 2726]

[His Excellency Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Elkarim Abdul Azziz El Issa
Minister of Justice
University Street, Riyadh 11137
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966-1-401-1741]

 [Date]

[Your Highness] [Dear Minister],

I am writing to express my deep concern about the issue of child marriage in Saudi Arabia and the extremely negative impact of such marriage on girls.  A recent case is that of 12-year-old Fatima from Najran who was married by her father to a 50-year-old man with a wife and ten children in exchange for 40,000 Saudi Riyals which her father used to buy a car.  Fatima’s paternal grandfather and uncle were opposed to the marriage but could not prevent it because, as her male guardian, her father Ali had the right under Saudi law to marry her off at whatever age to whomever he pleased.  They fear that Fatima’s two younger sisters will be subjected to a similar fate.

Child marriages violate the human rights of girls by excluding them from decisions regarding the timing of marriage and choice of spouse.  International organizations such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF and UNFPA have underscored the negative physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual and sexual implications of child marriage on girls.  Fatima’s marriage will, among other things, deprive her of an education and severely jeopardize her right to mental, emotional and physical well-being.

I urge you to issue an edict banning child marriages by establishing 18 years as the minimum age of marriage, and providing punishments for those who enter into or facilitate such unions.  I also urge you to take urgent action to annul the marriages of child brides whose marriage contracts have been executed but who have yet to be handed over to their husbands, and to ensure that child brides already living with their husbands are given a real choice to annul their marriages.  Please ensure that the Saudi legal and judicial system reflect your government’s stated claim before international bodies that women are not subject to male guardianship, but rather have the right, among other things, to enter into marriages of their choice.  In this respect, I urge you to support the establishment of a codified personal status law to guarantee the rights of women in marriage and divorce, ensuring that such a law is based upon principles of equality and non-discrimination. 

I thank you for your attention.

Sincerely yours,

Cc: The Human Rights Commission (email: hrc@haq-ksa.org)
 

News Alert: Equality Now Condemns Saudi Arabian Court Ruling Sentencing Rape Victim To 200 Lashes And 6 Months’ Imprisonment

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2007 Nov 19

A 19-year-old woman from Qatif, Saudi Arabia, was brutally attacked and gang raped by 7 men approximately 18 months ago, according to media reports. While seeking justice in her case, the woman was herself sentenced in October 2006 to 90 lashes for being in the company of an unrelated man at the time of the attack.

What You Can Do: 

Please contact the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington D.C, or in your country if not the US, as well as the State Department in the US or your country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Call on these officials to convey your concern over this injustice and to take whatever action is in their power to protect this Saudi rape victim from lashing and imprisonment. In the US, please contact:

Saudi Arabian Ambassador, Adel Al-Jubeir, in Washington D.C. at (202) 342-3800
Or
Consulates General in: New York at (212) 752-2740, Los Angeles at (310) 479-6000, Houston (713) 785-5577
 

U.S. Members Urgent Alert: Equality Now calls on the U.S. Senate to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2010 Aug 10

In November 2009, Equality Now issued an urgent alert calling on the U.S. Senate to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 (S. 987/H.R. 2103) (the “Act”). Major provisions of the Act were included in the State Department Reauthorization Bill which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2009. The Act has garnered a great deal of support in the Senate and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and we are hopeful that the legislation will be passed into law this year.

What You Can Do: 

As a part of efforts to curb child marriage, Equality Now urges its Women’s Action Network members in the U.S. to call upon their U.S. Senators to cosponsor the Act (S. 987/H.R.2103) and urge members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to ensure that the Act is taken up by the Committee in September. Click here to find your Senators’ contact information. TAKE ACTION!

Sample letter

 

Ethiopia: Proposed New Law Threatens to Shut Down Non-Governmental Organizations

Action Number: 
22.5
Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2008 Dec 15
Update Date: 
2009 Jan 6
Update: 

URGENT APPEAL: New Law Threatens Human Rights in Ethiopia

On 6 January 2009, the Ethiopian government pushed through passage of the Charities and Societies Proclamation before Parliament went on recess. The effects of this Proclamation were set out in Equality Now Women’s Action 22.5 (see below). We hope you have the time to send a letter immediately to the Ethiopian Justice Minister, urging immediate review and revision of this law. We have suggested a possible text below, but please feel free to write your own letter.

Without an amendment to the provision that restricts organizations which receive more than 10% of their funding from outside the country from undertaking any human rights work, many critical services and protections will disappear. Thank you for your partnership.

Equality Now

Sample letter

Woineshet Zebene Negash In March 2002, Equality Now partnered with the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA) in the campaign to outlaw bride abduction in Ethiopia, adding an international overlay to the advocacy EWLA carries out on the ground.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the officials listed below expressing deep concern over the draft Charities and Societies Proclamation as it would effectively disallow human rights organizations from operating in Ethiopia. Highlight also the unacceptably wide scope of authority given to the proposed Charities and Societies Agency under the bill and the lack of transparency regarding its terms of operation. Ask the officials to ensure removal of the requirement that NGOs working on women’s rights and other specified issues raise at least 90% of their funding domestically and urge them to promote comprehensive revision of the text to guarantee that all NGOs, including those working to promote human rights, including women’s rights, are permitted to operate without political interference as provided under the Ethiopian Constitution and international human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is a party.

Letters should go immediately to:

H.E. Berhan Hailu
Minister of Justice
P O. Box 1370
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel: +251 11 551 3620
Fax: +251 11 551 7775
Email: justice@ethionet.et

H.E. Muferiat Kamil
Minister of Women’s Affairs
P.O. Box 1293
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel: +251 11 416 6375
Fax: +251 11 416 6362

With copies to:

H.E. Dr. Kassa G. Hiwot
Commissioner Ethiopian Human Rights Commission
P.O. Box 1165
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel: +251 11 618 0046
Fax: +251 11 618 0041
Email: hrcom@ethionet.et

H.E. Ato Abay Tekele
Ombudsman Institution
P.O. Box 2459
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel: +251 11 553 2052/53
Fax: +251 11 553 2073
Email: ombudsmaneth@ethionet.et

 

Women's Action 22.1: March 2002
Women's Action 22.2: February 2004
Women's Action 22.3: November 2004
Women's Action 22.4: June 2005

Urgent Alert: Saudi Arabia: Urgent Call for Annulment of Marriage of 10-Year-Old Girl

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2009 Jun 1

Amneh Mohamed Sharahili, a 10-year-old Saudi schoolgirl, has been married off by her father to a 25-year-old Saudi man. Although Amneh’s marriage contract was executed in mid-February 2009, she has not yet been handed over to her husband and continues to live with her parents. Her father intends to hand her over in July 2009. Amneh, who is eager to continue school and eventually become a teacher, does not quite comprehend what it means to be married.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the King of Saudi Arabia asking him to issue an edict establishing a minimum age of marriage and banning all child marriages. Call upon him to take urgent action to annul the marriage of Amneh and all other child brides whose marriage contracts have been executed, but who have yet to be handed over to their husbands. Also ask him to ensure that child brides already living with their husbands are given a real choice to annul their marriages and, if they opt for annulment, to ensure that this happens swiftly without negative repercussions on the girls. Please also urge the King to support the establishment of a codified personal status law to guarantee the rights of women in marriage and divorce, ensuring that such law is based upon principles of equality and non-discrimination. Please send a similar letter to the Minister of Justice. Letters should go to:

His Majesty, King Abdullah bin Abdul
Aziz Al Saud
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 491 2726

His Excellency Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul
El Karim AbdulAzziz El Issa
Minister of Justice
University Street, Riyadh 11137
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 401 1741

With a copy to:

The Human Rights Commission
P.O. Box 58889 Riyadh 11515
King Fahed Street
Building 373
Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Email: hrc@haq-ksa.org

Sample letter
 

Japan: Rape simulator games and the normalization of sexual violence

Action Number: 
33.2
Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2009 Sep 1
Update: 

Following Equality Now's campaign the Japan Ethics Organisation of Computer Software (EOCS), whose members consist of 90% of the Japanese adult content computer game producers, banned the production and sale of games such as RapeLay and other games which simulate sexual violence. Although its regulations do not apply to non-EOCS producers, partners have informed us that owners of the majority of retail stores selling these games have stated they do not sell games by non-EOCS producers.

In addition, The Komei Party which was a member of the Japanese coalition government at the time, held a committee meeting on the issue of rape simulation games and created the Committee Working Towards a Child Safe World and Child Prostitution and Child Pornography Law Revision Committee, in response.

Our partners have stated that, "if a group based in Japan had initiated this campaign, a similar response from the Japanese government and the media would have been unlikely."


“Women are stupid creatures who don’t know how to do anything other than cook us dinner. This just proves their stupidity; they need to realize that the word ‘equality’ was a word created by men for men, and was never meant to be used by, referred to, or given to women.” (Online game blogger responding to Equality Now’s Women’s Action against rape simulator games in Japan)

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Japanese government officials below, calling on them to comply with Japan’s obligations under CEDAW, including the recent strong exhortation of the CEDAW Committee to ban games and cartoons that normalize and promote sexual violence against women and girls. In your letter to the Minister of Justice ask her also to inquire about the requested investigation into the apparent gang rape video sent by Equality Now to the Tokyo police department, and ask that her office investigates this and other actual rape videos to ensure that all those involved are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Please also continue to write to Illusion Software asking it to withdraw immediately from sale all games which involve rape, stalking or other forms of sexual violence or which otherwise denigrate women. Suggest that corporations have a responsibility to consider, as good business practice, any negative impact their activities may have on society and the public interest. Please write a similar letter to Amazon Japan.

Mr. Tadashi Yoshimura
Managing Director
Illusion Software
1-10-1 Nishikanagawa Kanagawa-ku
Yokohama-city, Kanagawa 221-0822, Japan
Tel: (+81) (0)4-5322-1551
Email: illuon@illuon.jp, info@illuon.jp

Sample letter to Illusion Software

Mr. Jasper Cheung
President of Amazon Japan K.K
2-15-1 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-000-2, Japan
Email: via website

Sample letter to Amazon Japan

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda
2-3-1 Nagata-Cho, Chiyoda-ku,
Tokyo 100-0014, Japan
Tel: (+81)(0)3-3581-0101
Fax: (+81)(0)3-3581-3883
Email: via website

Sample letter to the Prime Minister

Ms. Keiko Chiba
Minster of Justice
1-1-1 Kasumigaseki,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8977, Japan
Tel: (+81)(0)3-3580-4111
Fax: (+81)(0)3-3592-7393
Email: webmaster@moj.go.jp

Sample letter to the Minister of Justice

Women's Action 33.1: May 2009

Zambia: Rampant rape of schoolgirls by their teachers—victory in R.M.’s civil case

Action Number: 
32.2
Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2009 Dec 1
What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Director of Public Prosecutions calling for the prosecution of Mr. Hakasenke for the rape of R.M. Ask him to ensure that girls have full recourse to the law if they are raped and that perpetrators are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Remind him of the government’s obligations to protect young girls under Zambia’s own Constitution, the Protocol, and other human rights instruments to which Zambia is a party. Please write to the police Victim Support Unit asking them to expedite Mr. Hakasenke’s arrest. Please also write to the new Minister of Education, asking her to ensure that guidelines and mechanisms are put in place to prevent and better address sexual violence against girls in schools, including by school officials, and that the court-ordered compensation is paid to R.M. as soon as possible. Urge the Minister to cooperate with police to facilitate the arrest of Mr. Hakasenke and, at a minimum, to ensure that he is no longer on the government payroll.

Letters should be addressed to:.

Mr. Chalwe Mchenga
Director of Public Prosecutions
P.O. Box 50106
Lusaka
Republic of Zambia
Tel: +260 211 251 367
Fax: +260 211 257 636

Sample letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions

Mr. Tresford Kasale
Director
Victim Support Unit
Zambia Police Headquarters
Independence Avenue
P.O. Box 50103, Ridgewa
Lusaka 10101
Republic of Zambia
Tel: +260 211 254 534 / 253 543
Fax: +260 211 253 543

Sample letter to the Director of the Victim Support Unit

Hon. Dora Siliya
Minister of Education
P.O. Box 50093
Lusaka
Republic of Zambia
Tel: +260 211 250 558
Fax: +260 211 253 502
dsiliya@moe.gov.zm

Sample letter to the Minister of Education

Women's Action 32.1: February 2009

 

Yemen: End early marriages by enacting and enforcing a minimum age of marriage law

Action Number: 
34.2
Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2010 Apr 1

In the past month, Equality Now has been informed of a number of cases of young Yemeni girls who have undergone or been at risk of early and forced marriage which has left them subject to some of its many harmful consequences. 

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Yemeni President, Minister of Justice and the Speaker of the House asking them to ensure that the early marriage bill is considered and passed by parliament as soon as possible. Call upon them also to ensure effective enforcement of this law, once passed, including through mandatory registration of all marriages and punishment for those in violation. TAKE ACTION!

Letters should be addressed to:

Mr. Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi
President of the Republic of Yemen
President Residence
60 Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 274 147

Mr. Ghazi Al Ghabari
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Justice Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 252 138
Tel: +967 1 252 136/7/9

Mr. Yahya Ali Al Raei
Speaker of the House
Yemeni Parliament
26 September Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 276 091
Email: info@yemenparliament.org

Sample letter

Urgent Alert: United States: Urge your Senators and Congressperson to co-sponsor the International Violence Against Women Act

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2010 Jul 5
Update Date: 
2010 Nov 17
Update: 

*re-issued November 2010 for passage this year*

Equality Now supports the International Violence Against Women Act (HR 4594/S 2982) in order to achieve a more comprehensive, multi-sectoral, and coordinated response to violence against women that is not only more efficient, but also a wise investment. The I-VAWA would:

 

What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION HERE or use the sample letter below.

Letters: 

Dear [Senator][Representative]

I am writing to voice my support for the International Violence Against Women Act (HR 4594/ S 2982).

Globally, it is estimated that one out of every three women will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused over the course of her lifetime, with rates of domestic violence reaching up to 71% in some countries. Somewhere a woman is raped, beaten, killed by her husband, trafficked or forced to trade sex for food every day.

I believe that efforts to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls should be a top priority in U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance programs. Not only is violence against women and girls a gross human rights violation, it is also a public health epidemic and a barrier to solving global challenges such as extreme poverty, HIV/AIDS, armed conflict and terrorism.

The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) supports innovative programs, which have been shown to effectively decrease acts of violence and support survivors. Many of these programs help women and girls do things we so often take for granted: go to school, earn an income to take care of their families, collect food or water without fear of rape and bring perpetrators of abuse to justice. I-VAWA will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of existing U.S. foreign policy to end and respond to violence against women and girls around the world.

When implemented, I-VAWA would help put an end to the fear, pain and suffering experienced by countless women and girls globally. Please use your leadership role to help facilitate the progress of this important legislation through Congress.

I thank you for your attention.

Sincerely yours,

 

Yemen: End early marriages through enactment of law enforcing a minimum age of marriage

Action Number: 
34.1
Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2009 Nov 1

On 11 September 2009, Fawziya Abdullah Youssef, a 12-year-old Yemeni girl married to a 25-year-old, farmer died in childbirth after 3 days of painful labor resulting in a stillbirth at al-Zahra district hospital in Hodeida province in Yemen. The previous year, Fawziya’s father had pulled her out of school and married her at the age of 11.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Yemeni President, Minister of Justice and the Speaker of the House asking them to ensure the swift passage of a law which provides for a minimum age of marriage of 18 years with appropriate penalties for violation of this law. Call upon them also to ensure effective enforcement of this law, once passed, including through mandatory registration of all marriages. Please also write to the Minister of Public Health and Population and urge him to ensure that the Ministry of Health endorses 18 years as the minimum age of marriage in accordance with Yemen’s obligations under international law. Letters should go to:

General Ali Abdullah Saleh
President of the Republic of Yemen
President Residence
60 Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 274 147

Mr. Ghazi Al Ghabari
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice Justice Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 252 138
Tel: +967 1 252 136/7/9

Mr. Yahya Ali Al Raei
Speaker of the House
Yemeni Parliament
26 September Street
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 276 091
Email: info@yemenparliament.org

Prof. Dr. Abdul Karim Yehia Rasa
Minister of Public Health and Population
Ministry of Public Health and Population
El Hisbah Directorate
Sana’a, Yemen
Tel:- +967 1 252 241
Fax: +967 1 252 247
Email: akrasae@yahoo.com

 

Letters: 

Sample Letter President/Minister of Justice/Speaker of the House:

[Date]

[Dear President/Minister of Justice/Speaker of the House],

I am writing to express my deep concern about the issue of early marriage in Yemen following the death of Fawziya Abdullah Youssef, a 12 year old girl who was pulled out of school in 2008 and married to an older man when she was 11 years old. After 3 days of painful labor she died in childbirth and her baby was stillborn. In another case, a 14 year old girl called Asghan was married when she was 12 years old and has twice run back to her family from her husband’s house. Her father threatened to kill her and divorce her mother in order to put pressure on Asghan to return to her husband and Asghan was only given a reprieve to stay with her family till she is 17 years old after the intervention of the Taiz governorate. Girls such as these and many others need the help of the government so they can continue to enjoy their childhoods. I understand that up to 50% of all Yemeni girls are married before the age of eighteen.

International organizations such as World Health Organization, UNICEF and UNFPA have underscored the negative physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual and sexual implications of child marriage on girls, including death due to early pregnancy and deprivation of education. I urge you to take urgent action to ensure that Yemen passes a law setting 18 years as a minimum age of marriage in line with Yemen’s international commitments, and to ensure effective enforcement of this law, including by requiring that all marriages are registered and prosecuting and punishing all those who violate the law.

I thank you for your attention.

Sincerely yours,

_________________________

 

Sample Letter Minister of Public Health and Population:

Prof. Dr. Abdul Karim Yehia Rasae
Minister of Public Health and Population
Ministry of Public Health and Population
El Hisbah Directorate
Sana’a, Yemen
Fax: +967 1 252 247
akrasae@yahoo.com

Dear Minister,

I am writing to express my deep concern about the issue of early marriage in Yemen following the death of Fawziya Abdullah Youssef, a 12 year old who was pulled out of school last year and married to an older man when she was 11 years old. After 3 days of painful labor she died in childbirth and her baby was stillborn. I understand that up to 50% of all Yemeni girls are married before the age of eighteen.

UNICEF and UNFPA have underscored the negative physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual and sexual implications of child marriage on children and pointed out that it is a violation of their human rights. Early pregnancy is a leading cause of death among girls. Early marriage also deprives a girl of education and severely jeopardizes her right to mental, emotional and physical well-being. According to the World Health Organization and UNFPA, early marriage can lead to numerous negative medical outcomes for both mother and child, such as low birth weight, preterm labor, stillbirths, perinatal deaths, pregnancy-induced hypertension, puerperal sepsis, septic abortion and obstetric fistula, and a resulting high rate of maternal and child mortality.

It has come to my attention that Parliament has asked your ministry for advice on establishing a minimum age of marriage. I urge you to follow internationally recognized standards, including those in instruments ratified by Yemen, and recommend 18 years as the minimum age for marriage in Yemen.

I thank you for your attention.

Sincerely yours,

 

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