“The ‘disposability’ of girls in Ethiopia and around the world needs to end.  We cannot be free until every sexist Penal Code is changed and every girl protected from violence.” So writes Faiza Jama Mohamed, the Africa director of Equality Now, the nonprofit organization that works to change sexist laws in countries around the world. She is celebrating a precedent-setting ruling of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights—a ruling that holds accountable the perpetrators of the abduction and rape of a young girl, Woineshet Zebene Negash. It took 15 years for the case to be resolved.

The announcement came, coincidentally, just a week before the convening of the 60th Session of the United Nations Commission of the Status of Women, which is meeting in New York until March 24. It was at the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing in 1995, that Hillary Rodham Clinton famously declared that “human rights are women’s rights—and women’s rights are human rights.” (How dismaying, that such an assertion should be considered noteworthy!)

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Woineshet was only 13 in 2001 when Aberew Jemma Negussie and a group of accomplices broke into her house late at night, carried her away, and raped her, Faiza Mohamed told Thomson Reuters Foundation News. When her teachers reported the rape, the police rescued her and arrested Negussie. However, let out on bail some weeks later, he “abducted her again and hid her in his brother’s house. She was held there until she managed to escape more than a month later, but only after she was forced to scrawl her name on a piece of paper – a document which would later be used against her in court as a supposed ‘marriage contract.’” (In some parts of Ethiopia, abduction/rape is tolerated as a means for a man to force a woman into marriage.)   Read More »

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