Panel Discussion: Spotlight on Progress "Can Better Legislation and Successful Prosecutions Help End FGM and Child, Early and Forced Marriage?"

Context: This presentation is from one of the 14 "Spotlights on Progress" video-recorded sessions from the Girl Summit 2014, London, United Kingdom (UK). The sessions were organised to share best practice between practitioners, grassroots activists, and government ministers across the issues of female genital mutilation (FGM) (also FGM/C - female genital mutilation/cutting) and child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM). Girl Summit is a project of the Department for International Development (DFID), UK.

From the conference outline document: "Effective legislation and its implementation require the sensitive involvement of many actors, including governments at all levels, traditional and faith leaders, civil society and communities. Join us as we explore the pathways to ending FGM and child, early and marriage through legal reform, promotion of child rights, and the role of prosecutors in order to achieve lasting change for girls and women."

Profile of speaker: A featured panelist of this Spotlight session was Her Excellency Hooria Mashhour - Minister of Human Rights, Government of Yemen, whose presentation was entitled "Working Towards Legislative Change for Child Rights". "She was appointed deputy chairperson of the Women's National Committee of Yemen in 2002. She held that position until 2012, when President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi named her Yemen's human rights minister. She has also served as editor-in-chief of Yemen's Alymania newspaper and as a member of the Technical Committee in charge of developing the 3rd National Plan."

Strategy overview: Minister Mashhour provided an overview of efforts in Yemen to legislate for the protection and reinforcement of child rights. She pointed out that, without a legal basis for children's rights, it is not possible to speak up for the rights of children, including on issues of CEFM and FGM. She pointed out that: "[From a translation] Yemen is one of very few countries not to have a law defining the age of marriage…. In January [2014], one of the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference was an agreement by all political parties to set the age of marriage at 18 [as part of the Law of Safe Motherhood]. A Constitutional Drafting Committee [was] established to draft a new constitution which [was to] be submitted to a popular referendum.... [The] Cabinet started discussion of a draft Child Rights law taking a comprehensive approach to the rights of children: it set the age of marriage for boys and girls at 18 years, prohibit[ed] the practice of FGM, [and] the use or recruitment of child soldiers and child labour. The draft law [was] informed by a review of compliance with international standards on the rights of the child." In spite of both government and human rights groups’ efforts to legislate against FGM and CEFM and "a considerable degree of consensus around these reforms", certain political and religious factions continued to block reforms, based upon interpretations of Sharia law. The then President Hadi halted the discussion and called for the establishment of a committee to recommend a way forward.  "While the Minister noted that some progress has been made at the community level, the government remains unable to prevent a large number of child marriages from taking place." 

Minister Mashhour expressed hopes that civil society organisations and coalitions through the Summit would push forward legislation in Yemen and worldwide. "The Minister emphasised the importance of the Summit as a platform for building coalitions to push forward legislation on FGM and CEFM - providing that coalition members are active in holding each other to account on Summit commitments. She also noted that interventions must tackle CEFM and FGM as symptoms of a wider context of violence, gender inequalities and harmful social norms."

Overview of this Summit session: From the Girl Summit summary document: "New and traditional media, brand platforms and communications strategies are proven tools that have triggered discussions and shifted perceptions. Speakers will give examples of how these tools are being used to change how girls see themselves and are perceived in their communities, as well to elevate the dialogue on key issues to national levels and beyond."

The speakers for this session are:

Alison Saunders CB Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales.

Kranti L. Chinnappa Executive Director, Human Rights Law Network (HRLN).

Dr Tabinda Sarosh Programme Director, Shirkat Gah.

Her Excellency Camara Sanaba Kaba Minister for Social Action and Promotion of Women and Children, Government of Guinea.

Her Excellency Hooria Mashhour Minister of Human Rights, Government of Yemen.

The session is chaired by Ikenna Azuike is a former lawyer and the founder of What's Up Africa, an... internet programme about African news, initiatives and people. He is also the founder of Strawberry Earth, a foundation devoted to promoting awareness about sustainability."

Footage of this (available below) and other "Spotlights" are available on DFID’s YouTube channel.

The Girl Summit is a project of DFID. Click here and scroll down to see the full list of individuals and organisations committed to working on girls' issues, as well as a list of Girl Summit Charter signatories.


DFID Girl Summit Outcomes website and the Mint Press News website, both accessed on August 18 2015. Image credit: Stephanie Sinclair

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