Last summer, instead of interning at a Bay Street law firm, Meghan Lindo travelled to the city of Meru, in Kenya, where she spent eight weeks helping prepare evidence for legal cases. The cases all involved sexual offenses against girls. Neither the 2010 constitution, which has strong provisions for the protection of women and children, nor a 2006 law against sexual violence is being adequately used to protect girls against rape, says Lindo, who travelled to Kenya under the auspices of the International Human Rights program at U of T’s Faculty of Law.
Lindo was working on what has become known as the “160 Girls” project, a set of cases that aims to test these laws. It involves 160 young female victims of sexual assault who are all seeking justice. Lindo and others helped by interviewing victims and their families, collecting evidence from hospitals, attending court proceedings and documenting events as they occurred.
Lindo interviewed a 13-year-old girl who said she had been sexually abused by a family member. The girl reported the crime to the police, but they refused to record her statement or even the fact that she had come to the police station to report it. “They said at worst it was a case of parental neglect,” recalls Lindo. But she and her colleagues documented both the crime and the failure of the police to respond.
The experience has galvanized Lindo. She’s always been interested in human rights and child welfare, but the time she spent abroad underscored how important her legal training can be in creating positive change. “I left Kenya with a sense of fulfilment and renewed sense of purpose,” she says.
Watch a video about the 160 Girls project: