Government and NGO Responses

                                                                                                                                                 Created June 2010

Forced and Child Marriage
Government and NGO responses to forced and child marriage have largely focused on prevention. A survey conducted by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) found that only two of 66 programs solely targeted married girls, and 11 targeted both married and unmarried girls. 73% of the programs targeted communities, 55% targeted girls, and 21% targeted policy makers. From: New Insights on Preventing Child Marriage: A Global Analysis of Factors and Programs, International Center for Research on Women (April 2007) (PDF, 60 pages).
 
Tostan, an international NGO headquartered in Senegal, runs community-based programs that educate both girls and others in the community who have a role in decisions about early marriage. According to Tostan, “4,017 communities in West and East Africa have publicly declared their abandonment of child/forced marriage, as well as female genital cutting.” From: Tostan Community-Led Development (2007). In a part of India where the average marriage age is 14, the Institute for Health Management, Pachod runs a community-based program working to improve formal education opportunities for girls. From: Improving the Reproductive Health of Married and Unmarried Youth in India, Institute for Health Management, Pachod. Since the program began, the average marriage age increased by one year. From: Programs and Activities, Institute for Health Management, Pachod. The Child Fund in Kenya is working to eradicate the practice of promising girls as wives before their birth. Instead, the Naning’ oi Girls Boarding school offers gifts to families who promise their unborn daughters will attend the school. From: Turning Child-Brides into Scholars, Child Fund International (April 2005).
 
Local governments have also been working to combat forced and child marriages. The Ministry of Youth and Sports in Amhara, Ethiopia, developed a Population Council program to help young girls avoid early marriage by providing financial assistance to families so their daughters could stay in school. The Population Council runs a parallel program for married girls, giving married girls information about health issues and providing them with a forum to interact with their peers. From: Berhane Hewan: Supporting Married and Unmarried Girls in Rural Ethiopia, Population Council (2010).
 
In order to deal with the problems of early marriage and dowry, a secondary school scholarship program was developed in Bangladesh to keep young girls in school longer. Since parents were required to sign a document promising that their daughters would not marry until 18, the program increased the age of marriage. From: Reforming Marriage Practices in Bangladesh, Population Council (31 January 2008). It also decreased the educational gap between spouses. However, it is unclear whether it had an effect on dowry practices. From: Early Marriage: Child Spouses, UNICEF (March 2001). 
 
Such programs provide young girls with tools they need to be able to have greater control over the course of their lives. They also empower communities to make different choices than had been traditionally valued. These steps can lead not only to a better quality of life for each of the girls in the community, but for the community as a whole. Much still needs to be done.
 
 
Female Genital Mutilation
Many intergovernmental organizations advocate for the abandonment of female genital mutilation. In 1997, the World Health Organization issued a joint statement with the United Nations Children’s Fund and the United Nations Population Fund against the practice of female genital mutilation. In 2008, a new statement with wider United Nations support was issued to support increased advocacy for the abandonment of female genital mutilation. From: Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: An Interagency Statement, World Health Organization (2008). The statement, collectively written by ten international agencies, affirms their “commitment to support governments, communities, and the women and girls concerned to achieve the abandonment of female genital mutilation within a generation.” The Interagency Statement emphasizes the need for a collective, coordinated approach at the community and national levels in order to create positive social change. The Interagency Statement has identified some promising strategies to achieve abandonment of female genital mutilation, such as empowering education through a non-threatening process for people to examine their beliefs and values related to the practice. Local religious and secular leaders should be included to sustain discussion and abandonment, while engaging all community members—women and men—in public dialogue about the consequences of female genital mutilation. A public pledge should be adopted to explicitly show the community’s commitment to ending female genital mutilation. The media should be used to provide information about female genital mutilation, its consequences, and ways to combat the practice. Finally, in communities where the practice is a “coming of age” ritual, alternative rituals need to be established to reinforce positive traditional values without using harmful genital mutilation. 
 
The United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Children’s Fund have a $44 million program aimed at decreasing female genital mutilation practices by 40% in 16 countries by 2015. From: UNFPA, UNICEF Step Up Efforts to End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, UNFPA (9 August 2007). Additionally, in June 2009, the U.N. Division for the Advancement of Women released papers on good practices in legislation to address harmful practices against women. Nine of the sixteen papers addressed female genital mutilation. 
 
Other intergovernmental and nongovernmental agencies have dedicated resources to ending female genital mutilation. The World Health Assembly passed Resolution WHA 46.18 condemning female genital mutilation practices in 1993, and the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board adopted Resolution WHA 47.10, encouraging all its member states to abolish female genital mutilation, in 1994. In 2008, WHO renewed its commitment to eradicating the practice and urged its member states to accelerate the end of female genital mutilation, enact and enforce legislation protecting women and girls from genital mutilation, support and improve community-based efforts to end the practice, work with governmental, international agencies, and nongovernmental organizations to end the practice, formulate and promote guidelines for the care of those who have undergone female genital mutilation, and develop or reinforce social and psychological services for those who have undergone the practice. See: Resolution WAH61.16: Female Genital Mutilation, World Health Assembly (24 May 2008) (PDF, 3 pages). The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched a $44 million program to decrease female genital mutilation practices by 40 percent in 16 countries by 2015. From: UNFPA, UNICEF Step Up Efforts to End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, United Nations Population Fund (9 August 2007). The Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices (IAC) committed to zero tolerance of female genital mutilation by the year 2010. From: International Day of Zero Tolerance, Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices (accessed 14 March 2010).
 
 
Sexual Exploitation, Prostitution, and Trafficking
The extent of enforcement of laws prohibiting trafficking and exploitation of girls varies, particularly at the local government level. A total of 69 countries have adopted the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others. From: Trafficking of Women and Children for Sexual Exploitation in the Americas, Pan-American Health Organization. Some countries, such as Benin, have laws on the books but have been slow to prosecute traffickers and pimps. From: Human Rights Report: Benin, United States Department of State (2008). By contrast, in Singapore, enforcement and prosecution on the whole are improving. As a general rule, prostitution is legal in Singapore only for adult women, and authorities arrested 40 girls believed to be under 18 for prostitution in 2008. As recently as 2007, the Singapore government made commercial sex with someone under 18 a crime. From: Human Rights Report: Singapore, United States Department of State (2008).   
 
When prosecuting traffickers, government prosecutors need the trafficked girl to remain in the country and testify, which creates evidentiary problems if the girl wishes to return home. This is particularly problematic where the victim is a minor, and it may be administratively difficult to keep her in a foreign country until trial because she or her parents wish for her to return to her family.
 
A task force created by the United States to prevent trafficking worldwide has made significant strides in both the United States and in other countries. The group divides countries according to a 3-tier system based on laws passed and policies to combat trafficking. The task force has also worked with U.S. immigration authorities to create a special “T” Visa for victims of trafficking to avert immediate deportation. From: United States Best Practices, Human Trafficking (2006). The visa program allows girls who receive such status in the United States to eventually apply for their entire family to immigrate to the United States.
 
NGO responses and initiatives regarding trafficking have been targeted in three areas: (1) educating parents about risks that can lead to trafficking; (2) raising government awareness and lobbying for prosecution of traffickers and pimps; and (3) rescuing girls from jails or abusers in coordination with local authorities. 
 
 
Prenatal Sex Selection
In response to the rise in SRB (Sex Ratio at Birth), the Chinese government has adopted a series of laws and regulations forbidding non-medical sex determinations from being performed during pregnancies as well as bans on sex-selective abortion. From: Imbalanced Sex Ratio at Birth and Comprehensive Intervention in China, UNFPA (29 October 2007).
 
India has also taken action, and in 1994 passed The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (PNDT).  The Indian legislation is quite thorough and aimed not only at preventing prenatal sex selection but also at protecting women who are coerced into aborting their unborn daughters. The PNDT prohibits and criminalizes communicating the sex of a fetus to any person (including parents and relatives) in any way, prohibits conducting prenatal diagnostic exams that determine the sex of the fetus except in a few medically related cases, and creates a system to regulate and monitor clinics that conduct such tests. Yet despite these laws, China and India continue to see high SRBs because the laws remain under-enforced and loopholes continue to be exploited. Similarly, in Nepal, despite the threat of legal sanctions in cases of prenatal sex determination and sex-selective abortion, medical practitioners have not stopped providing such services.
 
Several other organizations have taken strong positions against prenatal sex selection. The United Nations opposes the use of sex selection for non-medical reasons, as do the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics. From: Sex Selection, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (February 2007). The United Nations Population Fund commissioned a series of studies of four Asian countries in 2007 focusing on sex-selection practices and promoting both government and social action to combat the rising SRBs in these countries. From: Sex-Ratio Imbalances in Asia: Trends, Consequences, and Policy Responses, UNFPA (29 October 2007).
 
 
Sexual Harassment In Schools and the Workplace
The International Labour Office noted in 1989 that “youngsters working as household domestic servants may be the most vulnerable and exploited children of all, and the most difficult to protect.” The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that more girl children under the age of 16 are working in domestic service than any other category of child labor. From: Helping Hands or Shackled Lives? Understanding Child Domestic Labour and Responses to It, International Labour Association (January 2004).   
 
Much attention has been paid to the issue of the child domestic worker by international organizations such as the ILO, UNICEF, Save the Children, and Human Rights Watch. The ILO has focused initiatives specific to child domestic labor in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Arab States. From: From the kitchen to the classroom: Call for Political Commitment and Empowerment to get Girls out of Child Domestic Labour and into School, United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (25 September 2006). 
 
Local organizations have also been created to address the needs of child domestic workers in many countries. In the Philippines, the Visayan Forum Foundation has lobbied for legal change and social awareness, and organized workers groups called SUMPAI to gather and empower young domestic workers. From: Addressing vulnerability and exploitation of child domestic workers: An open challenge to end a hidden shame, United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (25 September 2006). In Indonesia, JARAK campaigns for a “Weekly Day of Rest.” Child Workers in Asia has been the driving force behind experience sharing, research, and advocacy in its region. From: From the kitchen to the classroom: Call for Political Commitment and Empowerment to get Girls out of Child Domestic Labour and into School, United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (25 September 2006). Two groups in Guinea, AGUIAS and ACEEF, have networks throughout the country for monitoring girl domestic workers. From: Bottom of the Ladder: Exploitation and Abuse of Girl Domestic Workers in Guinea, Human Rights Watch (14 June 2007). These organizations, and many other local outreach organizations, operate safe houses and meeting centers, and provide direct assistance to victims of sexual harassment and abuse.
 
In some countries where the abuse of child domestic workers is prevalent, certain measures have been taken to provide better support and protections for child domestic workers. For example, national declarations addressing child domestic workers have been adopted in Cambodia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras. India has amended its child labor laws to ban children under the age of 14 from working in domestic service. Morocco has proposed a bill to regulate working hours and time off for domestic workers. From: From the kitchen to the classroom: Call for Political Commitment and Empowerment to get Girls out of Child Domestic Labour and into School, United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (25 September 2006). Indonesia has adopted several acts including the Child Protection Act of 2002, the Domestic Violence Act of 2004, and the Anti-Trafficking Act of 2007. Unfortunately, as reported by Human Rights Watch, the execution of programs to enforce these laws has had only some success. From: Workers in the Shadows: Abuse and Exploitation of Child Domestic Workers in Indonesia, Human Rights Watch (11 February 2009). 
 
 
Crimes Committed in the Name of "Honor"
Some governments have responded to national and global pressure to curb "honor" killings by amending their penal codes and providing more assistance to women. Non-governmental organizations have been a powerful force in spurring governments to make these changes. In Egypt, the Association of Legal Aid for Women embarked in 1997 on a campaign against "honor" killings which included gathering information on "honor" killing-related court cases and analyzing rulings and sentences, as well as discussing findings with legislators, policy makers and the media, raising public awareness, drafting amendments to discriminatory penal code articles and networking with other NGOs, including the Alliance for Arab Women. From: Violence against women: Good practices in combating and eliminating violence against women, United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (17 May 2005).
 
Similarly, NGOs such as the International Campaign Against Honor Killings strive to build a network among those working to end "honor" killings and raise public awareness through publishing daily updates on "honor" killings that have occurred around the world.
 
On the ground-level, NGOs provide basic support. In Turkey, Ka-Mer, a local woman’s group, operates a hotline for women who fear their lives are at risk, provides shelter, and assists with obtaining restraining orders.
 
 
Sexual Assault in Conflict and Humanitarian Situations
Rape and sexual assault are proscribed by numerous countries’ military codes of conduct and criminal codes. From: The Six Grave Violations Against Children During Armed Conflict: The Legal Foundation, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (October 2009). In modern armed conflicts, often no one governmental authority has jurisdiction over the various participating groups, so even if local government leaders decide to put policies in place to prevent sexual violence, they have no control over many of the perpetrators. Very little can or is being done at the height of a conflict. Too often members of the government or ranking military are the perpetrators, or have authorized their soldiers to use these horrific methods.
 
Following the Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi in 1985, the first working group on refugee women was convened to advocate specifically for the rights of women affected by conflict, leading to the appointment of a Senior Coordinator for Refugee Women to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1989 and the adoption of a policy on refugee women’s protection, from which evolved new Guidelines on the Protection of Refugee WomenThese guidelines explicitly acknowledged exposure to sexual violence as a vulnerability of refugee women and girls, calling upon the humanitarian community to address it within its protection mandate. Further studies revealed that even the most basic reproductive health services were not available to women displaced by war. Reproductive health activists responded, and minimum health standards were expanded to include treatment for victims of sexual violence in times of conflict. Media coverage of the Bosnian and Rwandan conflicts illustrated to the world the extent to which women and girls were targets of sexual violence. Various committees, conferences, and publications further defined the problems and developed guidelines, including the use of the acronym GBV, Gender Based Violence, which expanded the types of violence covered. From: Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in War and Its Aftermath: Realities, Responses, and Required Resources, UNFPA (21 June 2006).
 
The UN Security Council has defined Six Grave Violations against children: recruitment and use of children; killing and maiming of children; rape and other sexual violence against children; abductions of children; attacks against schools and hospitals; and denial of humanitarian access to children. Most international tribunals and NGOs recognize that rape amounts to torture and is therefore absolutely forbidden, and many regional human rights agreements forbid sexual violence against minors. From: The Six Grave Violations Against Children During Armed Conflict: The Legal Foundation, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (October 2009).
 
The UN Secretary-General’s 2007 annual report on Children and Armed Conflict recommended that equal weight be given to all categories of violations against children, but in the 2008 annual report of the Special Representative to the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy states that it must be recognized that the violations and abuses committed against children in armed conflict go beyond those six categories. Ms. Coomaraswamy identifies new areas of concern due to the changing nature of conflicts, which include recruitment of children across borders, forced displacement, increased sexual violence, and the blurring of the traditional line between political based armed conflict and criminal violence.
 
Humanitarian attention to the use of war-related violence against women and girls is “in its relative infancy.” From: Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in War and Its Aftermath: Realities, Responses, and Required Resources, UNFPA (21 June 2006). This is finally beginning to change. According to the Reproductive Health Response in Conflict Consortium, as a result of the systematic and exceptionally violent gang rapes of thousands of Congolese women and girls, doctors in the DRC are now classifying vaginal destruction as a crime of combat. Additional medical issues include uterine prolapse, infertility, and complications due to miscarriages, self-induced abortions, and untreated STIs. From: Lives Blown Apart, Amnesty International. HIV/AIDS also takes its toll. In a 2001 study of 1,125 genocide widows in Rwanda, 70% of rape survivors were found to be HIV positive. From: Broken Bodies, Torn Spirits: Living with Genocide, Rape and HIV/AIDS in Rwanda, GBV Prevention Network (2004). In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 18,000 survivors of sexual violence – a third of them children – have benefited from medical and psychological care, legal counseling, and socioeconomic reintegration programs. From: The State of the World’s Children: Celebrating 20 Years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF (20 November 2009).
 
Several NGOs have also established monitoring programs. A 2002 report by Save the Children UK and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) detailed abuses committed in West African refugee camps by employees of humanitarian organizations. The report named specific organizations and institutions, received global media coverage, and provided a significant shift in recognition of GBV issues by the humanitarian community. New guidelines and protocols were created in response. The UNHCR, Democratic Control of Armed Forces, and several other organizations are all attempting to raise awareness of the vulnerability of women and children in conflict zones and refugee camps, including offering recommendations for prevention, protection, and treatment, and working towards holding perpetrators accountable. From: Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in War and Its Aftermath: Realities, Responses, and Required Resources, UNFPA (21 June 2006).
 
Despite all the best efforts and intentions of numerous governmental agencies and humanitarian groups, gender-based sexual violence still exists, and women and children are not being protected. The girl child is being raped and tortured in multiple locations around the world. Far more work needs to be done to prevent the soldiers, militia, paramilitary, and non-combatant opportunists from perpetrating and perpetuating this horrific violence.  
 
 
 
Compiled from: New Insights on Preventing Child Marriage: A Global Analysis of Factors and Programs, International Center for Research on Women (April 2007) (PDF, 60 pages); Tostan Community-Led Development (2007); Improving the Reproductive Health of Married and Unmarried Youth in India, Institute for Health Management, Pachod.;Programs and Activities, Institute for Health Management, Pachod, Turning Child-Brides into Scholars, Child Fund International (April 2005); Berhane Hewan: Supporting Married and Unmarried Girls in Rural Ethiopia, Population Council (2010); Reforming Marriage Practices in Bangladesh, Population Council (31 January 2008); Early Marriage: Child Spouses, UNICEF (March 2001); Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: An Interagency Statement, Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and World Health Organization (WHO) (2008) (PDF, 47 pages); Female Genital Mutilation: Information Kit, World Health Organization (WHO) (May 1999) (PDF, 50 pages); Female Genital Mutilation Resolution WHA61.16, World Health Organization (WHO) (24 May 2008); UNFPA, UNICEF Step Up Efforts to End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (9 August 2007); International Day of Zero Tolerance, Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices (accessed 14 March 2010); Abandoning Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: An In-Depth Look at Promising Practices, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) (December 2006) (PDF, 74 pages); Trafficking of Women and Children for Sexual Exploitation in the Americas, Pan-American Health Organization; Human Rights Report: Benin, United States Department of State; Human Rights Report: Singapore, United States Department of State (2008); United States Best Practices, Human Trafficking (2006); Imbalanced Sex Ratio at Birth and Comprehensive Intervention in China, UNFPA (29 October 2007); Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (PNDT). ; Sex Selection, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (February 2007); Sex-Ratio Imbalances in Asia: Trends, Consequences, and Policy Responses, UNFPA (29 October 2007); Helping Hands or Shackled Lives? Understanding Child Domestic Labour and Responses to It, International Labour Association (January 2004); From the kitchen to the classroom: Call for Political Commitment and Empowerment to get Girls out of Child Domestic Labour and into School, United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (25 September 2006); Addressing vulnerability and exploitation of child domestic workers: An open challenge to end a hidden shame, United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (25 September 2006); Bottom of the Ladder: Exploitation and Abuse of Girl Domestic Workers in Guinea, Human Rights Watch (14 June 2007); Workers in the Shadows: Abuse and Exploitation of Child Domestic Workers in Indonesia, Human Rights Watch (11 February 2009); Violence against women: Good practices in combating and eliminating violence against women, United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (17 May 2005); The Six Grave Violations Against Children During Armed Conflict: The Legal Foundation, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (October 2009); Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in War and Its Aftermath: Realities, Responses, and Required Resources, UNFPA (21 June 2006); Lives Blown Apart, Amnesty International; Broken Bodies, Torn Spirits: Living with Genocide, Rape and HIV/AIDS in Rwanda, GBV Prevention Network (2004); The State of the World’s Children: Celebrating 20 Years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF (20 November 2009).