Areas of Focus

Adolescence, Brain Development and Legal Culpability

2002, the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of mentally retarded persons. This decision, Atkins v. Virginia, cited the underdeveloped mental capacities of those with mental retardation as a major factor behind the Justices’ decision.

Adolescence is a transitional period during which a child is becoming, but is not yet, an adult. An adolescent is at a cross- roads of changes where emotions, hormones, judgment, identity and the physical body are so in flux that parents and even experts struggle to fully understand.

As a society, we recognize the limitations of adolescents and, therefore, restrict their privileges to vote, serve on a jury, con- sume alcohol, marry, enter into contracts, and even watch movies with mature content. Each year, the United States spends billions of dollars to promote drug use prevention and sex edu- cation to protect youth at this vulnerable stage of life. When it comes to the death penalty, however, we treat them as fully func- tioning adults.

The Basics of the Human Brain

The human brain has been called the most complex three- pound mass in the known universe. This is a well deserved rep- utation, for this organ contains billions of connections among its parts and governs countless actions, involuntary and volun- tary, physical, mental and emotional.

The largest part of the brain is the frontal lobe. A small area of the frontal lobe located behind the forehead, called the pre- frontal cortex, controls the brain’s most advanced functions. This part, often referred to as the “CEO” of the body, provides humans with advanced cognition. It allows us to prioritize thoughts, imagine, think in the abstract, anticipate conse- quences, plan, and control impulses.

Along with everything else in the body, the brain changes significantly during adolescence. In the last five years, scientists, using new technologies, have discovered that adolescent brains are far less developed than previously believed.

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Child marriage country profiles

The world has committed to the target of ending child marriage by 2030 through the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, though many countries remain off-track to meet this goal. These statistical profiles draw upon nationally representative data to present an overview of the practice in each country, detailing how common the practice is across the population, describing the characteristics of unions, providing insights into the lives of child brides across key domains of well-being and illustrating trends in the practice and the acceleration required to reach the 2030 SDG target


“No One Believed Me”: A Global Overview of Women Facing the Death Penalty for Drug Offenses

This report examines how women’s gender shapes their pathways to drug offending and experiences in the criminal legal system, and how courts often ignore or disbelieve these gendered factors ….

In some countries, the overwhelming majority of women on death row were sentenced for capital drug offenses. This report examines how women’s gender shapes their pathways to drug offending and experiences in the criminal legal system, and how courts often ignore or disbelieve these gendered factors when imposing death sentences for drug offenses.

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Annual report on the execution in Iran

On the World Day Against the Death Penalty, HRAI has published its annual report, in efforts to sensitize the public about the situation of the death penalty in Iran.

Between October 10, 2019, and October 8, 2020, the death penalty and executions have been the focus of 264 HRANA reports. Over this time period, the Iranian authorities issued the death penalty sentence to 96 individuals and have already carried out 256 executions including 2 public executions. Females account for only 15 of the 256 HRANA-confirmed execution victims this year. . In addition, 2 juvenile offenders, under the age of 18 when they allegedly committed the crime they were charged with, were executed.

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10 million additional girls at risk of child marriage due to COVID-19

With 25 million child marriages averted in the last decade, UNICEF issues warning on International Women’s Day that these gains are now under serious threat

Ten million additional child marriages may occur before the end of the decade, threatening years of progress in reducing the practice, according to a new analysis released by UNICEF today.

COVID-19: A threat to progress against child marriage – released on International Women’s Day – warns that school closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy, and parental deaths due to the pandemic are putting the most vulnerable girls at increased risk of child marriage.

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, 100 million girls were at risk of child marriage in the next decade, despite significant reductions in several countries in recent years. In the last ten years, the proportion of young women globally who were married as children had decreased by 15 per cent, from nearly 1 in 4 to 1 in 5, the equivalent of some 25 million marriages averted, a gain that is now under threat.

“COVID-19 has made an already difficult situation for millions of girls even worse. Shuttered schools, isolation from friends and support networks, and rising poverty have added fuel to a fire the world was already struggling to put out. But we can and we must extinguish child marriage,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “International Women’s Day is a key moment to remind ourselves of what these girls have to lose if we do not act urgently – their education, their health, and their futures.”

Girls who marry in childhood face immediate and lifelong consequences. They are more likely to experience domestic violence and less likely to remain in school. Child marriage increases the risk of early and unplanned pregnancy, in turn increasing the risk of maternal complications and mortality. The practice can also isolate girls from family and friends and exclude them from participating in their communities, taking a heavy toll on their mental health and well-being.

COVID-19 is profoundly affecting the lives of girls. Pandemic-related travel restrictions and physical distancing make it difficult for girls to access the health care, social services and community support that protect them from child marriage, unwanted pregnancy and gender-based violence. As schools remain closed, girls are more likely to drop out of education and not return. Job losses and increased economic insecurity may also force families to marry their daughters to ease financial burdens.

Worldwide, an estimated 650 million girls and women alive today were married in childhood, with about half of those occurring in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India and Nigeria. To off-set the impacts of COVID-19 and end the practice by 2030 – the target set out in the Sustainable Development Goals – progress must be significantly accelerated.

“One year into the pandemic, immediate action is needed to mitigate the toll on girls and their families,” added Fore. “By reopening schools, implementing effective laws and policies, ensuring access to health and social services – including sexual and reproductive health services – and providing comprehensive social protection measures for families, we can significantly reduce a girl’s risk of having her childhood stolen through child marriage.”


State-Sanctioned Killing of Sexual Minorities: Looking Beyond the Death Penalty

This report examines the extent to which states sanction the killing of sexual minorities.

Many readers will take for granted the acceptability of consensual sexual activity between persons of the same sex, and the total inappropriateness of the state interfering with—let alone prohibiting—such behavior. It may come as a surprise, then, that around the world, numerous states are complicit in the most extreme response to sexual diversity: homicide.

This report examines the extent to which states sanction the killing of sexual minorities. We look beyond those countries that impose the death penalty for same-sex intimacy to the far greater number of countries in which state actors commission, condone, endorse and enable such killings. We argue that the state-sanctioned killing of sexual minorities is often perpetrated well beyond the boundaries of the law, and even in countries that do not criminalise such conduct.

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Ending Child Marriage in Muslim Family

Child marriage—where at least one spouse is under the age of 18—is harmful to children’s health, safety, education, employment, and overall well-being. It perpetuates poverty, violence, and discrimination. It impedes economic and social development. States have a duty to protect vulnerable children and our societies from such harm.

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