Equality Now is a non-governmental organization founded in 1992 whose purpose is to, in its own words, work "for the protection and promotion of the human rights of women and girls around the world". The group provides an international framework for spreading awareness of issues and providing support to local grassroots groups working to address issues of concern to it. The organization lists its primary concerns as being rape, domestic violence, reproductive rights, trafficking of women, female genital mutilation, and equal access for women to economic opportunity and political participation.
Background and history
In 1992, Jessica Neuwirth, Navanethem Pillay, and Feryal Gharahi, attorneys from the United States, South Africa and Iran respectively, created Equality Now. These founders believed that acts of violence against women were violations of the fundamental human rights guarantees as stated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They felt that the human rights movement had neglected women’s rights, dismissing violations as “cultural” or “private”. Issues such as domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation, trafficking, and reproductive rights were not part of the agendas of established human rights organizations.
The founders had a vision of an organization that would work closely with grassroots women’s organizations in every region of the world, sharing and receiving information on the status of women and violations of their rights, and mobilizing public protest in response. Immediately after the opening of its New York office, Equality Now began to identify groups whose work matched its own mission and to consider how to support and reinforce the actions those groups were already taking. Another part of the founders’ vision was to create a presence around the world through offices in different regions that would develop stronger relationships with the local groups and regional networks that are best placed to assess the most effective actions that can be taken to end violence and discrimination in their communities.
Equality Now found a way to raise public consciousness on women’s rights as human rights and to channel concern into strategic action through the Women’s Action Network. People who joined the network began receiving Women’s Action campaign briefings and were urged to take action against human rights violations against women by writing letters of protest directly to government officials, sharing information about these violations within their communities, and taking other steps to support the struggle to end violence and discrimination against women.
In 2000, their Africa Regional Office opened in Nairobi, Kenya. The Africa Regional Office was launched to enhance Equality Now’s ability to respond to and coordinate with other organizations working at the national and regional levels across Africa. In 2004, Equality Now opened an office in London, England, which now serves as an international research center, as well as a European base, and provides a greater and more cost-effective capacity to further target issues of critical concern. It also better enables Equality Now to build and support the unique international coordination efforts it offers to grassroots organizations around the world.
- to campaign for the reform of laws and practices that discriminate against women
- to contribute towards the global campaign to end violence against women
- to promote the equal partnership of women in decision-making
Equality Now works to achieve its mission of ending violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world through its work in the 4 program areas:
Discrimination in law
The fight for civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights, all relate to the underlying struggle for justice and equality. Equality Now’s work in this area addresses the organization’s goal of reforming discriminatory laws and practices, and bringing justice and equality to women and girls. Equality Now leads and participates in a range of activities and campaigns that aim to hold governments accountable to the pledges they have made to protect the fundamental rights of women and girls around the world.
Female genital mutilation
It is estimated that more than 130 million girls and women around the world have undergone genital mutilation. At least 2 million girls are at risk every year. The cutting, which is generally done without anesthetic, may have lifelong health consequences including chronic infection, severe pain during urination, menstruation, sexual intercourse, and childbirth, and psychological trauma. Some girls die from the cutting, usually as a result of bleeding or infection. Equality Now's FGM fund provides financial support to grassroots organizations opposing these practices.
Equality Now has campaigned against sex tourism and trafficking, putting pressure on governments and helping to shut down companies that support or profit from these practices. In one prominent case, Equality Now successfully campaigned to have the New York sex tourism travel agency Big Apple Oriental Tours prosecuted for promotion of prostitution. While a restraining order was obtained preventing the company from advertising, the criminal case against the agency's owners was ultimately unsuccessful.
Sexual violence is perpetrated around the world on girls and women of all ages and all backgrounds. Various traditional practices around the world constitute, result in, or perpetuate sexual violence against women and girls. It is also promoted, glamorized and normalized through popular media. Equality Now works to end such violence both through prevention and effective response.
- Ongoing campaign against sex tourism companies Big Apple Oriental Tours and G.F. Tours, and calling on the US Attorney General to prosecute such companies under the Mann Act and Travel Act.
- Calling for Japan to ban video games that simulate rape – eroge, with specific focus on the game RapeLay – under the belief that it promotes and normalizes sexual assault. As a result, RapeLay was removed from Illusion Software's website and several Japanese H game producers and other eroge-affiliated websites have decided to block all non-Japanese IP addresses. This campaign has found criticism. Various concerns have been stated and legal foundations of this campaign have been questioned in an online petition, and a web site has been set up  which argues that campaigns such as Equality Now's against fictitious depictions are in violation of Article 18 and Article 19.
- Calling on the king of Saudi Arabia and Saudi Minister of Justice to end enforced marriages and divorces.
- Anti-pornography movement
- Human rights abuse
- Human rights
- Gender equality
- Sexual slavery
- About Us. Equality Now.
- Update: Women's Action 12.4/27.2
- Japan: Rape simulator games and the normalization of sexual violence May 2009
- Minori Official Website June 2009
- Visual Antena! a Visual Novel News Website as of June 2009
- Yuzu-Soft Official Website June 2009
- See the link for "Petition Against the Persecution of Japanese Erotic Arts"
- Yes to Freedom ~Fiction Without Boundaries~
- Forced Divorce—Women under Perpetual Guardianship of Male Relatives