The Devastating Impact of Child Marriage on Girls Around the World

Shelter for survivors of forced marriage in Kaya city, northeast Burkina Faso.

October 11th marked the fifth year that the global community recognized International Day of the Girl Child, which the United Nations established to acknowledge girls’ rights and highlight the unique challenges girls face around the world. The list of challenges for girls is not short. Girls around the world are more likely to experience exclusion, discrimination, and gender-based violence than their male counterparts. They are also more likely to have unequal access to education and economic opportunities in the future.

The good news is that the world is paying closer attention to the rights of adolescent girls and, as a result, there have been some improvements over the decades. We have seen progress in girls’ education, and many countries have enacted laws to promote gender equality. At the same time, there are challenges for girls where change is insignificant or where progress is uneven: chief among them is early and forced child marriage. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

How Some of the World’s Most Restrictive Abortion Laws Turn Women Into Criminals

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Ireland, El Salvador, and Chile share a deplorable commonality — the governments of all three countries have enacted draconian and harmful abortion laws that put women’s and girls’ lives at risk. Today, on September 28th, the Global Day of Action to Decriminalize Abortion, we join with people and organizations around the world to demand an end to these dangerous laws. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Ordered Rape of Dalit Sisters Highlights Severe Caste and Gender Discrimination in India

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By Gopika Bashi, @gopikabashi, Women’s Rights Researcher, Amnesty International India

On 24 August, Amnesty International India launched a petition regarding two Dalit sisters who had been ordered to be raped and paraded naked by a khap panchayat – an unelected village council – in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh in northern India, as ‘punishment’ because their brother had eloped with a married woman from a dominant caste.

Amnesty offices around the world circulated similar petitions, so that our supporters globally would have an opportunity to take action. Over 500,000 people have so far signed these petitions.

Some media organizations have subsequently released reports which have questioned the petition. Some have said that members of the gram panchayat – the elected village council – and members of the dominant caste have denied the allegations. Others have claimed that Amnesty did not investigate the case.

Unfortunately, these reports have taken the attention away from the situation of the sisters themselves, who along with their family still fear for their safety. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Lucky To Be Alive – Despite Paraguay’s Restrictive Abortion Laws

Jandira Queiroz, activism and mobilization advisor at AI Brazil at the Paraguayan consulate, Rio de Janeiro, delivering signatures for pregnant 10-year-old gir'?s case. (Photo Credit: Anistia Internacional Brasil)

Jandira Queiroz, activism and mobilization advisor at AI Brazil at the Paraguayan consulate, Rio de Janeiro, delivering signatures for pregnant 10-year-old girs case. (Photo Credit: Anistia Internacional Brasil)

By Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International

It was a situation almost too heart-wrenching to comprehend. In April this year came the news from Paraguay that “Mainumby” (not her real name) then a 10-year-old girl, had become pregnant after she was repeatedly raped, allegedly by her stepfather. The girl had been taken to hospital several times in a four-month-period before the pregnancy was discovered.

After finding out the horrific news, Mainumby’s mother, whose legal complaint against her daughter’s abuser had fallen on deaf ears, made a request to the authorities to allow her daughter to have an abortion. But the government refused it, and instead moved the girl into a home for young mothers.

The reason? Paraguay, like many other countries in Latin America, has some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws – where terminating a pregnancy is only allowed if the life of the pregnant woman is at risk. Authorities decided this case did not fall under the exception, despite the risk that a pregnancy poses to such a young girl’s physical and mental health.

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Take Action to End Child Marriage on International Youth Day

Indian groom puts vermilion on the forehead of his underage bride during a mass marriage in Malda, India 02 March 2006. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Groom and underage bride during a mass marriage in Malda, India. March 2, 2006. Child marriage, which is illegal under international law and prohibited in many countries, still impacts 15 million girls each year. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

In Malawi, Kalinde* was 15 years old when she was forced to marry due to her family’s poverty. She was told to respect her husband and never to deny him sex. Her husband’s work takes him away from their home for long periods of time, leaving her and their two children with nothing to live on. Kalinde’s husband also physically abuses her and has affairs with other women. As a result, Kalinde contracted HIV. In Kalinde’s words:

Marriage is not good for girls. There is no happiness. I want change for girls and that is why I want my story to be heard by all girls out there thinking of marriage.”

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A Vote To Protect the Human Rights of Sex Workers

Indian sex workers hold placards as they take part in a rally in New Delhi, 08 March 2006 to mark the International Women's Day.  The protestors demanded social rights and the Immoral Traffic Prevention (ITP) Act to be scrapped.  (Photo credit: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)

Indian sex workers hold placards as they take part in a rally in New Delhi, 08 March 2006 to mark the International Women’s Day. The protestors demanded social rights and the Immoral Traffic Prevention (ITP) Act to be scrapped. (Photo credit: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)

A crucial vote to protect the human rights of sex workers was passed today in Dublin at Amnesty International’s decision-making forum, the International Council Meeting (ICM). Delegates from around the world authorized the organization’s International Board to develop and adopt a policy on the issue.

This is a divisive, sensitive and complex issue and our priority has been and remains an approach that best protects the rights of some of the most marginalized people in the world. That is why we have been working for over two years to develop a policy to protect the human rights of sex workers based on research and global consultation with hundreds of organizations, our international membership and many more individuals worldwide.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Human Rights Jargon

Still from 'Waiting For The Guards ' showing simulated torture. 'Waiting For The Guards ' is a film produced for AIUK as part of a campaign against the CIA's detention and interrogation programme which AI believes amounts to torture and degrading treatment contravening  Article 3 of the Third Geneva Convention – which prohibits the humiliating or degrading treatment of prisoners of war. Jiva Parthipan, a Sri Lankan performance artist assumes a stress position from one of the interrogation techniques.

Baffled by technical human rights terms and precise legal definitions? You’re not alone. Here’s a quick glossary of some of the most troublesome words and phrases.

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“I Didn’t Know You Could Get Pregnant From Having Sex.” Breaking Barriers to Women’s Rights in Burkina Faso

Young women hold hands in a shelter run by Nuns, these young women have courageously fled forced marriage or early and unwanted pregnancies. Ouagadougou. July 2014

Young women hold hands in a shelter run by Nuns, these young women have courageously fled forced marriage or early and unwanted pregnancies. Ouagadougou. July 2014

Imagine not knowing that sex could make you pregnant. Imagine finding out how to prevent a pregnancy only after you’d had your third or fourth child.

Now imagine knowing about contraception but being refused it just because you don’t have permission from your partner or in-laws. And even if you have permission, with clinics and pharmacies so far away from where you live, you simply can’t afford the journey there, let alone the contraception itself.

This is the reality for many women and girls in Burkina Faso, where most are already married and have more than one child by the time they are 19. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

It’s Time for Chile to Change Its Restrictive Abortion Laws

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By Leah Schmidt, Identity and Discrimination Unit, Amnesty International USA

In July 2013, an 11-year-old girl became pregnant after having been raped repeatedly for two years by her stepfather. However, ending the pregnancy was not an option for her. In Chile, where she lives, abortion is outlawed in all cases, even in cases of rape and even for children. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The Human Rights Reports that could: Analysis of the 2014 Department of State Country Reports

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to how the 2013 Human Rights Reports were the foundation of U.S. foreign policy and a statement to the world that the U.S. is watching to make sure that foreign governments protect the human rights of their citizens (Photo Credit: Mladen  Antonov/AFP/Getty Images).

(Photo Credit: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images).

By Adotei Akwei and Larissa Peltola*

After months of anticipation by the global community, the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014 finally arrived on June 25, a mere six months into 2015. This beguiling page-turner, which provides us with a summary of the state of human rights around the world, highlights virtually every country yet somehow manages to gloss over, or omit altogether, the human rights violations occurring in the United States (#closeGuantanamo).

Amnesty International USA, along with several other human rights groups, continues to welcome the reports as a potentially valuable roadmap to guide U.S. foreign policy. They offer a detailed look at the human rights situation in particular countries and often indicate developing political and human rights crises, but sadly, they have historically been ignored by the very government that produces them.

The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that human rights are a priority of its foreign policy. If that is the case, then we urge the administration to look at the reports of the countries flagged below and assess whether those countries should be receiving security or financial assistance, or whether supporting governments that treat people so poorly is a sensible investment of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars.

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