Growing up in Pakistan at a time when country’s laws were ‘Islamacized’ influenced Yasmeen Hassan`s life and education paths. She has been involved in women’s rights since youth, authoring the first study of domestic violence in Pakistan. Gratuated from Harward Law School for now she has more than 20 years of experience in international women`s rights, with a special focus on rights under Islamic law. Today Yasmeen Hassan, a former member of United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, is the Global Executive Director of  Equality Now that is an international human right organization and movement  focused on gender equality, universality, partnership and Speaking Up and Out.


Equality Now. Yasmeen Hassan Equality Now. Yasmeen Hassan

A media person

What makes Hassan stand out is her belief in power of social media platforms. “One of our most effective means of applying pressure to governments and institutions is through the media, and advancements in technology have allowed us to partner with more diverse media outlets to reach wider audiences globally.” Targeting potential supporters she writes papers and publications in such sources as the Huffington Post, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Hassan also appeared on CNN and Al Jazeera.

However, today this is not enough. Internet has became a staple staple of 21st century activism uncludimg feminism. Its viral effect is indubitable. “The internet is opening up channels between women in different countries, and women who might be isolated in their communities, to understand each others’ lives and support each other, which is the heart of feminism to me. We need equality to make our societies better for both men and women,” – says Hassan. But there is a drawback. “Before technology was being used to bring us together and connect like-minded people, it was being used for exploitation. In the early days of the internet, it was pornographers and pimps who had figured out how to use technology to promote their “businesses.” Technology provides new means for harassers, traffickers, abusive partners, and others to target women and girls.”

Equality Now. Yasmeen Hassan

Women gone viral

It is doubtful that all those who view agressive or discriminating media would go out and commit an assault against women.Yet such content might promote violence against women and perpetuate stereotypes of women as sex objects. In 2009 Hassan, as a part of Equity Now, supported the Action against rape simulation games and submitted  the issue to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The goal was  “to ban the sale of video games or cartoons involving rape and sexual violence against women.” As a result,  both Amazon Japan and Illusion Software stopped selling RapeLay,  a 3D eroge video game. AlsoJapan’s Ethics Organization of Computer Software, one of the industry’s self-regulating bodies, reportedly banned the production of games containing certain forms of violence against women.

This viral feature of media also helped Equality Now to conduct  #MyDressMyChoice campaign and a social outcry against ongoing and rising violence against women in Kenya. In 2014 there were several incidents with women being publicly stripped and taped with subsequent distribution of the videos on the Internet. In reply members on Equality Now  marched through Nairobi’s central business district to stop these violent attacks. The campaign continues and calls to TAKE ACTION NOW!

Equality Now. Yasmeen Hassan

Is the mission accomplished?

Equality Now strongly believes in a free press and media power to expose  human rights abuses. In the effort to change the behaviour of the media and journalists in the UK, Equality Now turned attention to the Leveson Inquiry. It was a public investigation chaired by Lord Justice Leveson on ethics of the British press. Equality Now and partners, End Violence Against Women CoalitionEaves Housing and Object, presented a  testimony to the Leveson Inquiry  to highlight the pervasive sexual objectification and damaging representation of women.They also made recommendations to Leveson calling for  new codes of practice and improved media regulatory practices to avoid gender inequality and stereotypes. This case certainly can be added to Equality Now success list.

With twenty years of advocacy and achievement now Equality Now would love to be eliminated with a”mission accomplished”. However issues of discrimination in law, sexual violence, Female Genital Mutilation, and sex trafficking are still immanent. There is still lots of work to be done. “At Equality Now, we work to create a just world for women and girls: a world where women are treated equally under the law to men, and have full enjoyment of their rights. My biggest hope for the future is that our work is done and we can shut down”!

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