The new Ethiopian Supreme Court President is also recognized as a front line women right activist. Her works inspired Hollywood star actress, Angelina Jolie, to produce and champion a movie titled “Difret.”
The Ethiopian Prime Minister recently announced a list of cabinet members, half of whom were women, the first of its kind in the country and one woman was singled out and caught our attention, Meaza Ashenafi. The most famous case handled by the new Supreme Court president is that of a fourteen year old school girl in 1996.
The “schoolgirl killer” Aberash Bekele was kidnapped on her way from school by horsemen. Bekele’s main captor threw her over his saddle, rode off to a location where he locked up and raped the young girl whom he supposedly had plans to marry. In a report by Newsweek, this was a normal custom in the Arsi area of Ethiopia as about 30% of marriages were carried out in like manner.
The young girl escaped stealing one of the guard’s guns in the process. When chased after, she shot her captor dead which led to an angry mob almost killing her. She was however saved and put on trial for murder but Ashenafi, who was then a member of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association, took up the challenge to defend Bekele. Charges were dropped on the defense of self-defense and age of the girl.
Though it is claimed that this is not the principal story for Difret, which means courage in Amharic, the movie, released in 2014, is believed to be based on Bekele’s story. One which sparked international outcries against the ancient Ethiopian marriage tradition. The movie’s synopsis read thus,
“The inspirational true story of a young Ethiopian girl and a tenacious lawyer embroiled in a life-or-death clash between cultural traditions and their country’s advancement of equal rights.”
The movie went on to highlight the struggle for the young girl’s release and how important it is to fight against the grain just to birth transformation, especially of a country. The movie was however not produced with the consent of the girl involved and thus she made efforts to stop the screening which were fruitless.
Both the movie makers and Ashenafi had not taken permission with a claim that the movie was not about Bekele which was glaringly false.