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Avon Global Center 2012 Conference
Avon Global Center 2012 Women and Justice Conference: Sexual Violence Against
Girls in Southern Africa
18-19 October 2012, Cornell Law School, Ithaca, New York, USA

To read the Center's new report, "They Are Destroying Our Futures": Sexual Violence Against Girls in Zambia's Schools, please click here.

The Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School hosted its Third Annual Women & Justice Conference in Ithaca, NY on October 18 and 19, 2012. The topic of the conference, Sexual Violence Against Girls in Southern Africa, developed from a study on sexual violence against girls in schools in Zambia conducted by Cornell Law School's Avon Global Center and International Human Rights Clinic, and Women and Law in Southern Africa-Zambia (read the conference report here). Cornell Law School faculty and students traveled to Zambia to interview government officials, school teachers and administrators, and school girls in connection with a report launched at the conference. Of the 105 girls who were interviewed as part of the study, 54% said that they had personally experienced sexual violence or harassment by a teacher, student or men they encountered while traveling to and from school, while 78% reported that they had personally experienced or knew of classmates who had experienced such abuse.


Cynthia Bowman, Elizabeth Brundige, Hon. Gertrude Chawatama,  and Hon. Virginia Kendall speak on a panel regarding sexual violence against girls in Zambian schools Cynthia Bowman, Dorothea S. Clarke Professor of Law, Cornell Law School Elizabeth Brundige, Executive Director, Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School Keynote address by Rashida Manjoo, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Its Causes and Consequences Hon. Gertrude Chawatama, High Court of Zambia and Commissioner of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission of Kenya Hon. Virginia Kendall, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Sital Kalantry, Faculty Director, Avon Global Center for Women and Justice, Cornell Law School Hon. Mumci Dlamini, High Court of Swaziland, answers questions from students and professors Visiting judges participate in a discussion session with Cornell Law School students and professors Hon. Barbara Rothstein, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington


Schools are one of many settings in which sexual violence may occur. Girls in southern Africa and throughout the world are raped, sexually abused, assaulted, and harassed by family members, peers, teachers, and strangers. These abuses cause serious physical and emotional injuries to young girls, discourage them from continuing their education, and reinforce discriminatory patterns in the family and society. Moreover, girls who are subjected to sexual violence often face multiple barriers to obtaining justice.  The Conference examined these issues through several public events and a closed session judicial colloquium involving judges from southern Africa and the United States, as well as scholars and members of civil society organizations.

Thursday, October 18

Tompkins County Court Visit
Hosted by Hon. John Rowley, a judge for the County, Family, and Surrogate's Courts in Tompkins County, New York, this event provided visiting judges an opportunity to experience how a local justice system grapples with cases involving the abuse of a child.  A panel including a defense attorney, attorney for the child, assistant district attorney, representative of the Sheriff's department, probation officer, and staff member of the Advocacy Center, which works with victims of child sexual abuse, discussed how different community actors work together with the court to ensure that these cases result in the best possible outcome for the child.

Report Launch and Consultation
Discussion of "They are Destroying Our Futures': Sexual Violence against Girls in Zambia's Schools" by a panel of experts in Ithaca, N.Y. and Lusaka, Zambia. This event was co-sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Zambia, which held a simultaneous event in Lusaka. Participants from Zambia included Zambian government officials, including from the Ministry of Education, police, and judiciary, as well as representatives of civil society organizations.  The panel consultation provided an opportunity to engage in dialogue with experts to discuss the concerns and recommendations raised in the new report.

Panel Speakers in Ithaca, NY:

  • Cynthia Bowman, Dorothea S. Clarke Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
  • Elizabeth Brundige, Executive Director of the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School
  • Hon. Gertrude Chawatama, High Court of Zambia and Commissioner of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission of Kenya
  • Hon. Virginia Kendall, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

Addressing Gender Justice: Views from the Bench
Hon. Barbara Rothstein of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington moderated an interactive discussion among Cornell Law School students and 15 judges from southern Africa and the United States.

Keynote Address: The Denial of the Right to a Life Free of Violence for Girl Children
Rashida Manjoo, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Its Causes and Consequences and Professor in the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town gave a keynote address that discussed the legal, cultural, and socioeconomic causes of sexual violence and the obstacles to redress. Drawing on visits to a wide range of countries, she emphasized the importance of critical analysis in evaluating progress and noted that attention to both tradition and the details of implementation were essential for effective reforms. [Program for Day 1].

Friday, October 19

Judicial Colloquium (closed session)
At the colloquium, 15 judges from southern Africa and the United States, joined by several participants from academia and civil society organizations, examined the role of judges in addressing sexual violence against girls. Drawing from their experiences and insights as adjudicators, the jurists shared strategies, challenges, and best practices from their respective jurisdictions.  They discussed, among other topics,
courtroom procedures and rules of evidence, laws and their interpretations, and judicial initiatives outside of the courtroom that advance justice for child survivors of sexual violence. [Program for Day 2 ]

The Conference was hosted by Cornell's Avon Global Center for Women & Justice and made by possible by a generous grant from the Avon Foundation for Women.  It was co-sponsored with Cornell Advocates for Human Rights; the Cornell Law School International Human Rights Clinic; the Cornell Law School Women's Law Coalition; the Dorothea S. Clarke Program in Feminist Jurisprudence at Cornell Law School; the Institute for African Development at Cornell University; the United States Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia; Women and Law in Southern Africa-Zambia; the University of Zambia School of Law, and Virtue Foundation.

For further information about the conference, please contact the Avon Global Center by email.

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