Latest News from Equality Now - August 2013

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Congratulations to Gloria Steinem, Board member, UK Trustee and friend, on her recent selection as a 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom Honoree! The award is presented annually by the President of the United States and is considered to be the nation’s highest civilian honor. Like lifelong activist Gloria, your advocacy makes a difference. Read on for campaign updates:


US – Big Apple Oriental Tours sex tour operator convicted

Kenneth Franzblau

"Equality Now has long sought to address the demand for commercial sex by addressing sex tourism. The conviction of sex tour operator Douglas Allen sends a strong message to all of those involved in the commercial sex industry, buyers as well as pimps, that their activities are criminal and will be prosecuted."
-Kenneth Franzblau, Anti-Trafficking Consultant, Equality Now

Justice has finally been served in the campaign started by Equality Now in 1995 against New York-based sex tour operator, Big Apple Oriental Tours (BAOT). On 22 July, co-owner Douglas Allen was convicted of promoting prostitution and faces up to seven years imprisonment. This sentence followed several investigations by Equality Now and law enforcement agencies, and a previous acquittal of Allen and co-owner Norman Barabash. Though the path to justice was lengthy, the perseverance of Equality Now, our Equality Action Network members and our partners was instrumental in this conviction. The combined efforts led to an amendment to the New York State anti-trafficking law in 2007, which gave law enforcement the legal tools needed to be able to prosecute sex tour operators for their criminal actions. Allen was convicted under this amended law and is scheduled for sentencing on 15 October 2013.

[Note: Barabash severed his relationship BAOT around the time of his arrest and conviction in an unrelated mortgage fraud scheme. He was released from prison in July 2011.]

Saudi Arabia – Women’s rights activists file appeal
On 14 July, Wajeha Al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni filed an appeal of their prison sentence and travel ban, and are currently awaiting the decision of the appeals court. In the meantime, Equality Now has submitted a communication to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to ask for immediate intervention in the case, and to the UN Commission on the Status of Women about the case and male guardianship generally, which the UN will raise with Saudi Arabia. If the conviction is upheld, the activists will have one last opportunity to appeal their sentence to the Supreme Court, but will have to do so from a prison cell. Please continue to take action and thank you to everyone who took part in our social media campaign.

Global – Countries amend discriminatory nationality laws
Progress has been made in our campaign calling for the repeal of sex discriminatory nationality and citizenship laws: the Senegalese Parliament amended a law so that Senegalese women now have the same rights as men to transfer their nationality to their husbands and children; the Bahamian Constitutional Committee recommended that the new Constitution amend citizenship provisions to achieve gender-neutrality and full equality between women and men (to be voted on in November); and, in Austria, the law has been amended to remove some of the discrimination between unmarried men and women passing nationality to their children.

Additionally, Equality Now’s Senior Policy Advisor, Shelby Quast, presented our nationality report in Washington, DC during a 7 August panel on gender discrimination and statelessness with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the US Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and the Women's Refugee Commission. After the panel, the Department of State publicized Equality Now’s report via social media.

India – Reforming anti-trafficking laws
Proposed amendments to the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA) which would better protect sex trafficking victims were not addressed during this past Parliamentary session in India. Our partner Apne Aap is confirming when the provisions will be introduced and will present the petition and signatures to Parliament officials at that time.

US – Sexual assault in the military
Last week, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlined seven new initiatives targeting the Department of Defense’s sexual assault prevention and response efforts. Though the momentum to address sexual assault in the military is welcome, the initiatives do not go far enough to implement the structural changes needed for violence to be prevented and for victims to access justice. Therefore, Equality Now continues to advocate for passage of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA). Senator Gillibrand will be calling for a full Senate floor vote on the MJIA bill following the August Congressional recess. We also hope that Senate will show bipartisan support for two amendments related to the handling of sexual assault cases that were passed by the House of Representatives in July (offered by Congresswoman Speier (D-CA) and included in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014 - HR 2397). If you are in the US, please contact your Senator to support passage of these bills.

Indonesia – UN HRC criticizes medicalization of FGM
In response to Equality Now and our partner Kalyanamitra’s joint submission to the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), the Committee expressed concern of Indonesia’s passage of a regulation legitimizing FGM and authorizing medical professionals to perform it. In its concluding comments, the HRC called on the government to repeal the regulation, criminalize the practice of FGM and raise public awareness on the issue.


Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa celebrates 10 years

Courtesy of SOAWR
On 11 July, Equality Now's Nairobi office and the Solidarity for African Women's Rights Coalition (SOAWR) held an event to recognize the 10th anniversary of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. Currently 36 of the 54 African Union countries have ratified the Protocol, largely through the efforts of SOAWR of which Equality Now serves as Secretariat. “This is a long-term goal that requires determination and persistence. It is one that the SOAWR Coalition remains committed to achieving. While the coalition and its partners understand the uphill task ahead, they look back at the ten years since the Protocol’s adoption and appreciate its journey,” said Faiza Jama Mohamed, Nairobi Director of Equality Now.

Events will also be held in August in Malawi, including a presentation by the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, which will be hosted by Malawi President Joyce Banda. Journey to Equality, a book reflecting on the Protocol’s impact will be released shortly.

Prosecuting Sex Buyers
On 5 August, the New York Times published a Letter to the Editor by New York Director Lauren Hersh in reaction to a recent Federal operation resulting in the breakup of national child sex trafficking rings. In the letter, Lauren explained that to truly eliminate sex trafficking, the demand fueling commercial sexual exploitation must be criminalized. It is our hope that a bill (H.R. 2805/S. 1354) recently introduced in US Congress by Representatives Poe and Maloney and Senator Cornyn to expand the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) to penalize those who solicit or patronize sex trafficking victims, will therefore be enacted. This amendment would be a critical clarification of the original intent of the TVPA to reach the full market of sex trafficking—trafficker, facilitator and buyer. Equality Now is advocating for its passage and we encourage those of you in the US to contact your Representative and Senator and urge them to pass it without delay.

Thank you Control Room
EN London & friends at Sound of Change
Equality Now would like to recognize and thank Kevin Wall and Aaron Grosky for their ongoing support and tireless efforts to advance the work of Equality Now. Through their company Control Room, Kevin and Aaron produced the globally televised The Sound of Change Live concert for Gucci and were instrumental in ensuring the presence of Equality Now in the program.

The talented producers are generously donating their services to produce our inaugural Los Angeles, California event this November where Advisory Board member Joss Whedon will be honored.

UNICEF releases comprehensive report on FGM
On 22 July, UNICEF released a global report on FGM that found that though the practice is declining in more than half the 29 African and Middle Eastern countries studied, 30 million girls are still at risk of FGM in the next decade. The robust statistical analysis also showed that prevalence rates fell the most in countries that addressed the issue through a combination of the law, education and child protective measures (e.g. Kenya, Burkina Faso). This multi-pronged approach is the method that Equality Now has been advocating for and implementing in our 20+ years of work in this area. “In the areas where FGM is going down, it has been addressed in a violence against women framework. It's a gender power control issue, and it is not something you can just educate people out of. It requires people to think that if they do it, there are ramifications. We cannot just rely on people's good will,” stated Efua Dorkenoo, FGM Programme Advocacy Director of Equality Now.

12 July declared ‘Malala Day’
"Today is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy, every girl, who has raised their voice for their rights." - Malala Yousafzai

On 12 July, Malala Yousafzai, the courageous Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban for demanding education for girls, delivered a speech at the UN headquarters in New York – her first public speech since her attack. Later that day, which was also her 16th birthday, Equality Now Global Director Yasmeen Hassan helped her celebrate at a party thrown in her honor. View Malala’s speech here.

Mandy's Corner: Women's Rights in the News

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