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Spotlight on: Violence Against Girls in Ethiopia
Marriage by Abduction and Rape

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In some regions of Ethiopia, abduction and rape is a cultural practice used to take a girl as wife by force. Typically, the girl is abducted by a group of young men, and then raped by the man who wants to marry her-either someone she knows, or a total stranger. Elders from the man's village then ask the family of the girl to agree to the marriage; the family often consents because a girl who has lost her virginity would be socially unacceptable for marriage to another man. Sometimes the abductor keeps the girl in a hiding place until she is pregnant, at which time the family again feels it has no option but to agree to the marriage.

It may seem unlikely a victim would willingly marry the perpetrator of her abduction and rape. However, with social and cultural pressure from families and the community, as well as threats from the offender, the girl will often "consent" to marry her perpetrator.

Both abduction and rape are criminal offences under Ethiopian law, but if marriage is subsequently agreed, the husband is exempt from criminal responsibility for his crimes.

Changing the law to adequately address the injustice that abducted and raped girls face is essential to the realization of the fundamental right to equality in Ethiopia. To find out more about what Equality Now is doing to campaign for changes in the law to protect the rights of women and bring perpetrators of abduction, rape and forced marriage to justice, and to find out what you can do, click here.

For more information on our campaigns to end violence against women around the world, go to www.equalitynow.org, or email us at [email protected].


Equality Now, May 2002

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