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ILW Talk Focuses on Protecting the Rights of Girls

By Lori Atherton

It is estimated that between 100 million and 140 million girls and women throughout the world have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice recognized globally as torture and a human-rights violation, said Shelby Quast, senior policy advisor at Equality Now. FGM, however, is just one of many human-rights abuses perpetrated against girls and women; others include early marriage, sexual violence, lack of access to education, and human trafficking. Quast discussed these issues in her talk, "Protecting the Rights of Girls: A Global Strategy," during the International Law Workshop on March 5.

Quast cited additional statistics: It is estimated that 100 million girls throughout the world will be married as children in the next decade; 150 million girls under 18 have experienced forced sexual intercourse, many as a tactic of war; and worldwide, girls make up more than 59 percent of illiterate youth and are less likely to attend secondary schools.

The obstacles to justice for girls facing human-rights violations are numerous, Quast noted, the foremost being a lack of knowledge on how to report the crime; a fear of being stigmatized in their communities if they report the abuse; being blamed for the incident ("she asked for it"); re-victimization through the justice system—having to share details of the abuse in the courtroom, for instance; and a lack of girl-friendly services to assist those who have been victimized.

A global multi-sector approach is needed to address these issues, Quast said, one that involves a change in attitudes, law and policies, and political will. She noted that Equality Now, through its Adolescent Girls Legal Defense Fund, is working to address these issues by monitoring legal proceedings to ensure cases are tried in a transparent manner; conducting research to identify gaps in the law; and creating partnerships to prevent and better address violations against girls and women.

Watch a video of Shelby Quast's talk.


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