Posts Tagged ‘women human rights defenders’

International Women Human Rights Defenders Day: two special events

November 30, 2020

On the occasion of International Women Human Rights Defenders Day (29 November) and marking this year’s 16 Days Campaign to combat gender based violence, Front Line Defenders presents a new edition of Cypher: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/sites/default/files/cypher05.pdf , the digital monthly comic magazine featuring stories of human rights defenders from around the world. This edition features stories of WHRDs working for accountability in the context of the rights of women and girls, with a focus on GBV, from Zimbabwe, Transnistria/Moldova, Tonga and Argentina. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/23/new-cypher-comics-for-human-rights-defenders/]

Also in celebration of International Women Human Rights Defenders Day the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) in Geneva organises an on-line ‘exhibition “The Gaze that Subverts” of pieces by the painter Z.

Each painting tells a story of a woman or women who, in defiance of patriarchal structures and authoritarian repression, occupy public space in China in their fight for justice.

Z’s paintings are both prompted by, and provide – in their embodiment, the bent torso, the flexed muscle – a response to, a central question of rights defence: ‘How do we change unjust power relationships with the all-too-scarce resources we have at our disposal?’

The exhibition runs from 29 November 2020 through March 2021. A public event to close the exhibition will be announced in the coming months. Download the flyer <https://ishr.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=97549cf8cb507607389fe76eb&id=d75b3cecd8&e=d1945ebb90>

Loujain al-Hathloul to stand trial in Saudi Arabia today

November 25, 2020

As I have been following the case of Loujain al-Hathloul regularly [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/loujain-al-hathloul/] I think it is important to report that she will appear in a Saudi court today Wednesday 25 November 2020, more than two years after she was first detained in a crackdown on human rights defenders.

al-monitor Lina al-Hathloul, whose sister Loujain is being held by Saudi authorities, speaks at the 10th Anniversary Women In The World Summit at David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center on April 10, 2019, in New York City. Photo by Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images.

We were just announced that @LoujainHathloul has a trial tomorrow,” her sister, Lina al-Hathloul, tweeted Tuesday.

The conservative Gulf kingdom insists that Hathloul and the others are detained over national security concerns. Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Jubeir told CNN last week that Hathloul’s fate “was up to the courts.” 

The idea that she and her friends were detained because they advocated women’s driving is preposterous,” said Jubeir. 

Hathloul’s court date was scheduled for March but was postponed indefinitely amid what Saudi officials said were coronavirus concerns. On Oct. 26, she began a hunger strike to protest her treatment in prison and lack of regular contact with her parents. 

Amnesty International urged Riyadh to allow diplomats and journalists to attend the trial. The rights group also called for Hathloul to be given access to her parents, and to a lawyer so she can prepare an adequate defense. 

In light of the women rights activists reporting having been tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention, we also have concerns about the admissibility of any ‘evidence’ that might be submitted in court tomorrow,” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director, said in a statement. 

The only just outcome for this trial would be the immediate and unconditional release of Loujain al-Hathloul,” Maalouf said.  

On Tuesday, a group of 29 organizations issued a letter to the president of Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission, Awwad Al-Awwad, expressing their concern over the “continued arbitrary detention of women’s rights defenders.” 

Hathloul’s expected court appearance comes days after Saudi Arabia wrapped up its hosting duties for this year’s Group of 20 summit, of which women’s empowerment was a theme. Ahead of the virtual gathering, a coalition of human rights organizations sought to draw attention to what they say is an increase in repression under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/11/loujain-al-hathloul-saudi-arabia-trial-jailed-women-activist.html

Training the next generation of international women human rights defenders

November 17, 2020

Dana Walters, in Harvard Law Today of 16 November 2020 describes how Salma Waheedi partners with gender justice coalitions to advance legal equality in Muslim communities. I repeat the article in full as it contains lots of interesting details:

Since joining Harvard Law School, Salma Waheedi, a clinical instructor and lecturer on law in the International Human Rights Clinic, has devoted a major part of her teaching and clinical legal practice to training students to become effective international women’s rights advocates. A native of Bahrain and a U.S.-trained attorney with a background in constitutional and Islamic Law, Waheedi has led advocacy and social justice-oriented legal projects in partnership with women’s rights activists in Muslim communities. To change the lived experiences of women most acutely, Waheedi and her partners have focused on family law reform.

Salma Waheedi joined Harvard Law School in 2016 as a joint fellow in Islamic Legal Studies and the International Human Rights Clinic. Today, she is a clinical instructor and lecturer in law in the International Human Rights Clinic and associate director of the Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World.

Despite its huge impact on women’s lives, it’s an area that receives relatively little attention in human rights circles,” Waheedi said. “We are talking about a system of laws that govern all aspects of women’s private lives, including marriage, divorce, child custody, matrimonial property, inheritance, as well as freedom of movement and work and protection from violence.”

..Waheedi’s practice focuses on lending legal support to women’s rights advocates working with their local communities, as well as international coalitions working to foster cross-regional collaborations. One key example is Musawah, a global movement advocating for justice and equality in the Muslim family. Musawah takes strong positions against child marriage, forced marriage, and polygamy and calls for equality in spousal rights, custody rights, access to divorce, and inheritance rights. It advocates for these changes through a holistic framework that integrates progressive Islamic legal interpretations, human rights principles, local constitutional guarantees of equality and non-discrimination, and the lived experiences of Muslim women.

“Many current legal provisions are no longer tenable given the lived realities of Muslim women today,” Waheedi said. “Muslim feminist scholarship aims to create a paradigm shift by emphasizing the need to return to the core principles of the Quran, such as justice, equality, and dignity for all, as a basis for an alternative rights-based reading of Islamic legal sources that responds to the contemporary needs of the Muslim family.”

To help conceptualize current reforms and outdated laws, Musawah and Waheedi’s student teams have put together a comprehensive Muslim family law mapping project. The project is a resource for researchers and academics to look comparatively across 31 countries with Muslim majorities or minorities. Importantly, the initiative also outlines positive developments for women’s rights in the Muslim world, celebrating successes, as well as marking lessons for how to continue to advocate for change.

In Fall 2018, Samantha Lint ’20 (middle) traveled to Geneva with Waheedi to work with women’s rights advocates to present a report on Mauritius to UN committees. Lint is seated between advocates Narghis Bundhun (left) and Anushka Virahsawmy (right).

Over the years, Waheedi’s student teams have also collaborated with international coalitions, local organizations, and grassroots activists to develop legal reform proposals and strategic advocacy reports to address gender discrimination in countries including Jordan, Nigeria, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Kenya, Mauritius. Salomé Gómez Upegui LL.M. ’18, who worked with Waheedi in 2017-2018, said working on such advocacy reports required “creative thinking,” asking students to learn and rely on comparative law, alternative interpretations of Islamic law, and human rights standards. After working on the reports, students often worked closely with activists to develop engagement strategies with their local legislatures or at the international level with United Nations mechanisms.

In fall 2018, International Human Rights Clinic alumna Samantha Lint ’20 worked with Waheedi, Musawah, and Mauritian family law expert, Narghis Bundhun, to document gaps in legal protection for married Muslim women. After working on the report, Lint traveled with Waheedi to present the findings to the U.N. Committee on the Convention on the Eliminations of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Lint, who had come to law school after working in women’s empowerment and global reproductive health, learned a tremendous amount about how to “support NGO advocacy in a U.N. treaty review process.” Importantly, she noted, working on the project demonstrated how change is possible within a large and bureaucratic organization like the U.N.

“After presenting our report to the CEDAW Committee, several members focused on the issues we raised when questioning the government of Mauritius. The government seemed a bit taken aback, and the committee really emphasized the problems with the lack of clear codified rights for Muslim religious marriages,” Lint said. “I saw that civil society advocates are a huge resource to the Committee, and are key in elevating issues that may otherwise go overlooked.”

Moreover, after presenting the report to the U.N., Lint and her team learned that the “the review process served as a catalyst for on-the-ground discussions and change [in Mauritius].”

Waheedi emphasized that she teaches her students that, as international lawyers, their role is to amplify the voices of local communities and grassroots activists.

She added, “local activists know the situation on the ground best. They are very clear about their priorities and needs. But many of these activists don’t always have the capacity or the resources to manage a full advocacy campaign at the international level. That’s where we come in,” she said. “In those cases, we have been able to work with the advocates to distill issues of concern, articulate proposals for legal reform, formulate advocacy strategies, and help them figure out where to put pressure on certain priority points to make change happen. But at the end, their voices are the ones that must be heard.”

Tarek Zeidan, executive director of the LGBT rights organization, Helem, was a cross-registered Harvard Kennedy School student in the International Human Rights Clinic. Zeidan worked with Waheedi on a project advocating for legal equality and protection of women from violence in Kuwait and Oman, gathering testimonies from local women and learning how to weave such first-hand evidence into documentation for advocacy purposes.

Working on the project gave Zeidan professional insight into how to structure human rights documentation and link it to “existing international legislatures to make the strongest case for equality-oriented legal reforms.”

Zeidan still draws on the lessons he learned with Waheedi as he now leads Helem in Lebanon: “I based a lot of our engagement plans with international organizations like the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights or the United Nations Development Programme on what I learned about appealing to international organizations in the clinic.”

“One of my main objectives is to train lawyers and advocates who would listen mindfully, set aside their assumptions and preconceptions, and work in collaboration with local activists and communities to develop solutions that correspond to their needs and priorities. Strengthening students’ cross-cultural sensitivity and the competency to translate between contexts are key learning goals in all these projects,” Waheedi said.

In 2018, Waheedi was named associate director of the Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World, a research program at Harvard Law School, which has enabled her to foster stronger engagement with scholars and policy experts and to bring contemporary debates on gender, feminism, and legal advocacy in Muslim contexts to HLS.

In late November, Waheedi will participate in Musawah’s global convening on Muslim family law reform, which will bring together activists, scholars, and policy makers from over thirty different countries to strengthen networks of mutual learning and support. Advocates will hold consultations over the course of five days to identify key barriers and challenges to reform in national contexts, share good practices, and work to develop key messaging to build public support for advancing equality and justice and to challenge Islamist and Islamophobic narratives.

The meeting will also celebrate and build upon the recently launched Musawah initiative, the Global Campaign for Justice in Muslim Family Laws. In early October, Waheedi curated a webinar for the Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World to highlight the campaign and the voices of Muslim women activists campaigning for egalitarian reform. The webinar, titled, “Muslim Women Creating New Futures,” featured Zainah Anwar, executive eirector of Musawah; Marwa Sharafelden, Musawah’s MENA region senior expert; and Hala Al-Karib, regional director of the strategic initiative for women in the Horn of Africa, and was moderated by International Human Rights Clinic alum Upegui.

Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has made “the work more relevant and urgent,” says Waheedi. As the UN has observed, the virus has been associated with a “a shadow pandemic,” a rise in violence against women and girls, and has exacerbated inequalities faced by women in the realm of marriage and the family. Musawah’s campaign and Waheedi’s advocacy for women’s rights operate within this context.

“It is important to recognize that there are no quick wins in this line of work, yet my students and I are always motivated and inspired by the dedication and perseverance of our partners in the most challenging of circumstances. We are energized by positive changes that are achieved through the relentless work of grassroots activists and organizers—from family law reforms in Jordan and Morocco to passing a law against domestic violence in Kuwait this year to banning triple talaq in India in a 2017 Constitutional Court victory. Change is not only possible; it is inevitable.”

Women human rights defenders in Poland under severe pressure

November 2, 2020

On 2 November 2020 ILGA Europe, Front Line Defenders, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freemuse and KPH Campaign Against Homophobia issued on joint statement demanding that Poland drop unfounded charges against women rights defenders for peaceful activism

Image: Elżbieta Podleśna / Image from Amnesty International UK website

Unfounded charges of “offending religious beliefs” are being brought against three women human rights defenders in Poland for simply exercising their right to freedom of expression, a coalition of six nongovernmental groups said. The first hearing in their case is scheduled for November 4, 2020, in the town of Plock. 

The Prosecutor General should drop the charges – and ensure that the three women can carry out their human rights work without harassment and reprisals by the authorities. The Polish authorities should amend their legislation in line with international and regional human rights standards and abstain from using it against activists to unduly curtail their right to freedom of expression.  

The three human rights defenders, Elżbieta, Anna and Joanna – whose surnames are not being used to protect their privacy – are facing trial for “offending religious beliefs” under Article 196 of the Criminal Code (C.C.) in relation to the use of posters depicting the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo symbolic of the LGBTI flag around her head and shoulders. The authorities are alleging that the three activists pasted the posters on 29 April 2019 in public places such as on portable toilets, dustbins, transformers, road signs, building walls in public areas in the city of Plock and have “publicly insulted an object of religious worship in the form of this image which offended the religious feelings of others”. They now face up to two years in prison if found guilty for their peaceful activism. 

The authorities arrested and detained Elżbieta in 2019 after she took a trip abroad with Amnesty International. The authorities opened an initial investigation against her in May 2019 and in July 2020, they officially charged the three activists. 

Having, creating or distributing posters such as the ones depicting the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo should not be a criminal offence and is protected under the right to freedom of expression.  

In its current formulation, Article 196 of the Criminal Code imposes undue restrictions on the right to freedom of expression by providing overly broad discretion to the authorities to prosecute and criminalise individuals for expression that must be protected. This is incompatible with Poland’s international and regional human rights obligations.  

Poland is bound by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the European Convention on Human Rights as well as the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU to respect, protect and fulfil the right to freedom of expression.  

Furthermore, in 2013, the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights noted that “Restrictions on artistic freedoms based on insulting religious feelings… are incompatible with [ICCPR]”. In 2019, this was again highlighted by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression who stressed that criminalising expression that insults religious feeling limits “debate over religious ideas and… such laws [enable] governments to show preference for the ideas of one religion over those of other religions, beliefs or non-belief systems”. Freemuse is particularly concerned about the policing of artistic and creative content by the authorities in Poland and regard it as an unlawful attack on freedom of artistic expression. 

Amnesty International has previously called on the Polish authorities to repeal or amend legal provisions, such as Article 196 of the Criminal Code, that criminalises statements protected by the right to freedom of expression, for example in the report ‘Targeted by hate, Forgotten by Law: Lack of a coherent response to hate crimes in Poland’. Many other national and international human rights organisations have criticised provisions of the Polish Criminal Code, including Article 196, as problematic because they constitute restrictions on the right to freedom of expression not permissible under international human rights law. 

International human rights law permits states to impose certain restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression only if such restrictions are provided by law and are demonstrably necessary and proportionate for the protection of certain specified public interests (national security, public order, protection of health or morals) or for the protection of the rights of others (including the right to protection against discrimination). When restricting the right to freedom of expression to protect public order or morals, the Human Rights Committee, which interprets the ICCPR, observed that states must not base their restrictions on principles deriving “exclusively from a single tradition” e.g. Christianity. States may impose certain restrictions on certain forms of expression if they can demonstrate that such restrictions are necessary and proportionate to the specified purpose (that is, the measure is designed to be effective in achieving its goal, lesser measures do not suffice and without putting in jeopardy the right itself). The current formulation of Article 196 of the C.C. does not appear to pass the test of proportionality and necessity. ..

The organisations recall that everyone has a right to express themselves safely and without fear of reprisals, and that the right to freedom of expression is protected, even if  some people might find the expression to be deeply offensive (Human Rights Committee, General Comment 34 on Freedom of Expression, para. 11). In the words of the European Court of Human Rights the right to freedom of expression “is applicable not only to information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population”.

Elżbieta, Anna and Joanna now face up to two years in prison if found guilty under the unfounded charges brought against them. The case against them is not unique but an example of the repeated harassment activists and human rights defenders face simply for carrying out peaceful activism in Poland, which Polish and international human rights organisations have documented and denounced at length in the last several years.  

Elżbieta, Anna and Joanna stood against hate and discrimination and for years they have been fighting for a just and equal Poland. They deserve to be praised and not taken to court for their activism.  

To date, around 140,000 people have joined an international campaign urging the Prosecutor General to drop the unfounded charges against the three women human rights defenders. The campaign is available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/take-action/poland-activist-elzbieta-podlesna/.    

Elżbieta is one of the courageous 14 women human rights defenders who were beaten and targeted for standing up to hate in Poland during the Independence March in 2018. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/30/after-two-years-justice-for-14-woman-human-rights-defenders-in-poland/]

At the time of her arrest in May 2019, she had just returned from a trip to Belgium and the Netherlands with Amnesty International, where she participated in several events and advocacy meetings with activists and supporters to raise awareness about the situations of peaceful protesters and the crackdown they are facing in Poland.  

https://undocs.org/A/HRC/23/34

Amnesty International, report ‘Targeted by hate, Forgotten by Law: Lack of a coherent response to hate crimes in Poland’, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur37/2147/2015/en/.

See their story at https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2019/04/14-women-blog/.  

——

https://freemuse.org/news/poland-drop-charges-against-women-rights-defenders-ngos-call-to-drop-unfounded-charges-for-peaceful-activism/

Russian resolution on participation of women in activities promoting global peace defeated in Security Council – explanation

November 2, 2020

Yoy may have read in the news that on Friday 30 October 2020 the U.N. Security Council defeated a Russian resolution to commemorate the 20th anniversary of a U.N. measure demanding equal participation for women in activities promoting global peace. The email vote on the resolution was 5-0, with 10 countries abstaining, far less than the minimum nine “yes” votes required for adoption. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/03/roadmap-to-women-peace-and-security-wps-agenda-2020/]

The Russian draft was supported by Russia, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and South Africa. The countries that abstained were the United States, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Germany, Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tunisia. The opponents were objecting to its failure to adequately address human rights and the key role of civil society in pushing for gender equality. If you are puzzled by this outcome the attached statement by CARE explains:

https://apnews.com/article/china-germany-europe-russia-united-nations-e67b5b5856a20d5601294dfdcd12252a

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/care-statement-failure-russia-s-draft-resolution-women-peace-and-security

Saudi Arabia uses women to spruce up its image: 2 efforts

October 23, 2020

Effort 1: With women’s empowerment topping the agenda at next week’s B20 Summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International is on 23 October 2020 reminding business leaders that many of the country’s bravest women’s rights activists are languishing in prison for daring to demand reforms.  “Since assuming the G20 Presidency Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in rebranding its image.But Saudi Arabia’s real changemakers are behind bars” says Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

Loujain al Hathloul, Nassima al-Sada, Samar Badawi, Maya’a al-Zahrani, and Nouf Abdulaziz spearheaded women’s rights campaigns, including calling for the right to drive and an end to the repressive male guardianship system. But while Saudi Arabia talks up recent reforms such as the relaxation of social restrictions and the loosening of the guardianship system to court approval from the rich and powerful around the B20, women’s rights activists remain in detention.

Saudi Arabia has publicized the fact that this year, 33 percent of B20 delegates are women – the highest ever contingency. The B20 website states that “Women in Business” will be Saudi Arabia’s “signature topic” as President. “B20 leaders must not be fooled by this shameless hypocrisy, and we call on them to show they care about human rights as much as business opportunities. Any business operating in or with Saudi Arabia has a responsibility to ensure they are not contributing to human rights violations through their activities.” 

The B20 is the official forum for business leaders to present policy recommendations to the G20, ahead of the main summit in November. This year high profile participants include representatives from HSBC, Mastercard, PwC, McKinsey, CISCO, ENI, Siemens, Accenture and BBVA.

Currently, 13 women’s rights defenders remain on trial facing prosecution for their human rights activism. Several face charges of contacting foreign media or international organizations, including Amnesty International. Some were also accused of “promoting women’s rights” and “calling for the end of the male guardianship system”. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/13/saudi-arabia-persist-with-trial-for-women-human-rights-defenders/

Amnesty International has written to businesses participating in the B20 Summit raising serious concerns about the human rights risks of business operations in and with Saudi Arabia, and reminding them of their human rights responsibilities.

We urge B20 delegates also to think carefully about how their brands could be legitimizing human rights violations and endorsing Saudi Arabia’s charm offensive,” said Lynn Maalouf. “If B20 Saudi Arabia was as progressive as it claims, the activists who did so much to secure more rights for women would have a seat at the table.” 

Effort 2: Nineteen NGOs are calling on golf’s Ladies European Tour to reconsider the decision to hold a tournament hosted by Saudi Arabia. Pulling out of the tournament, they explain, would be ab act of solidarity with women’s rights campaigners detained in the Kingdom.

“While we acknowledge that such tournaments represent an important milestone in women’s golf, we are deeply concerned that Saudi Arabia is using this sports event as a public relations tool to sportwash its appalling human rights record, including discrimination against women and the crackdown on women’s rights defenders,” said the NGOs in a letter to the tour organisers.

The event is due to take place in Saudi Arabia from 12 to 19 November, with a cash prize of $1.5 million from the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia has faced sustained criticism that it uses major sporting tournaments to deflect from its human rights abuses. The arrest of prominent activist Loujain Al-Hathloul in 2018 and several others was highlighted as a serious concern.

Al-Hathloul’s sister, Lina, took to Twitter with the hashtag #StandWithSaudiHeroes to highlight the punishments that women activists are subjected to simply for demanding basic liberties that are taken for granted elsewhere. [see also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/07/lina-al-hathloul-speaks-out-for-her-sister-loujain-imprisoned-in-saudi-arabia/]

In a letter penned to the top players on the Ladies European Tour, the 25-year-old described the event as a “grubby charade” as she argued that taking part was akin to giving “tacit endorsement to the Saudi regime and its imprisonment and torture of activists like my sister.”

Al-Hathloul’s imprisonment has been met with international outcry as concerns grow over her fate. Human rights organisations including Amnesty International have alleged that she and other women campaigners have been subjected to torture and sexual harassment, including threats of rape, while in Saudi detention.

The crackdown on female activists by the Saudi government reached its peak when the authorities arrested and detained Al-Hathloul, Eman Al-Nafjan and Aziza Al-Yousef on 15 May, 2018. Just weeks later, other leading women’s rights advocates and feminist figures were also arrested, including Samar Badawi and Nassima Al-Sadah.

“We remain concerned that they will not be able to exercise their right to a fair trial in accordance with the international human rights standards, to which Saudi Arabia is obliged to adhere,” wrote the NGOs. The only way to achieve true progress, they added, is to implement real reforms on women’s rights, and immediately release those arrested for defending these rights. “While we hope that Saudi Arabia can indeed develop its interaction with other countries around the world through hosting sports and other events in the Kingdom, we cannot ignore the country’s attempt to conceal its continued detention of women’s rights activists and discrimination against women by hosting a women’s sports tournament.”

Effort 2: The sister of jailed Saudi activist Loujain Al-Hathloul has called on European golf players to boycott the upcoming tournament in Saudi Arabic. In a letter sent to the Independent newspaper, Lina Al-Hathloul begged the top players on the Ladies European Tour to show support for her sister’s plight by not attending golfing events in Saudi Arabia scheduled for November.

In her letter, Lina wrote: “My sister is a women’s rights activist imprisoned and tortured by the Saudi regime. I understand the importance of sports to create links and bridges between different societies. “However, the current Saudi regime uses sports to whitewash its crimes, to have a window to the West, while maintaining and even worsening women’s conditions inside the country.

Don’t go to Saudi Arabia, don’t help that barbaric regime launder its reputation through your excellence. Stand in solidarity with women’s rights activists. Boycott the Ladies European Tour events in Saudi Arabia.

I am begging you, as a woman, as a person of conscience and as a role model – please boycott the Saudi women’s tour event.

—–

Support Loujain Hathloul by boycotting Saudi event, European golfers urged

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/10/with-women-activists-jailed-saudi-b20-summit-is-a-sham/

Roadmap to Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda 2020

August 3, 2020

Trough Reliefweb NGOWG posted on 14 July 2020 the following: In October 2020, women activists, peacebuilders, and human rights defenders along with UN Member States and agencies, will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) and the establishment of the WPS agenda.

20 years since the adoption of Resolution 1325, despite the fact that conflicts disproportionately impact the health, safety, and human rights of women and girls, they remain excluded from decision-making processes that determine their future. Specific provisions on women and gender were almost universally absent from ceasefire and peace agreements resulting from UN-led or co-led processes in 2018. Nearly five years since the three peace and security reviews in 2015, only 50% of the recommendations on WPS directed towards the UN have progressed, and only two recommendations out of 30 were fully implemented (S/2019/800). Meanwhile, within the very bodies tasked with protecting human rights and maintaining international peace and security, we have witnessed increasing and direct attacks on core principles of international humanitarian and human rights law, including as they apply to sexual and reproductive rights, and sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics (SOGIESC).

As we highlighted in our Policy Brief 2018, the Security Council is far from meeting its WPS obligations 20 years since the inception of the agenda. Despite some progress, WPS is often tokenized and only addressed at the most superficial of levels.

  • The continued ad hoc and inconsistent implementation of the WPS agenda over the last two decades by the Security Council reflects a selective approach to WPS and a lack of accountability for meaningful implementation of the agenda. Without civil society briefers raising WPS issues in their statements, our analysis shows that there would be far fewer references to WPS and that those references would be less substantive. We found a clear correlation between civil society briefers raising specific WPS issues, and those issues being addressed by Council members.
  • The Security Council continues to make decisions based on information that is mostly gender-blind. Less than 10% of WPS references in reports of the Secretary-General could be considered “analytical” — failure to embed intersectional, gender-sensitive conflict analysis in reports of the Secretary-General is contrary to guidance provided on reporting and internal good practice.
  • Women’s experiences tend to be instrumentalized at the Security Council, and violations of women’s rights are used to illustrate the seriousness of specific conflict situations and justify certain Council actions, rather than to meaningfully promote protection of women’s rights. Women’s participation in peace and security processes is also instrumentalized by use of the argument that their participation is necessary in order to make peace processes more effective, rather than that women have a right to equal participation in all areas of decision-making.

Over the last 20 years, several studies have found that gender inequality is a key predictor of conflict and instability — gender inequality increases the likelihood of conflict, and countries with weak human rights standards “are more likely to have militarized and violent interstate disputes.” A recent analysis found that 79% of armed conflict in situations for which there is data on gender equality took place in contexts with medium, high or very high levels of gender discrimination. Relatedly, strong feminist movements are also predictors of, and contributors to, efforts that reduce gender inequality. Addressing gender equality, as well as inequality more broadly, is therefore essential to preventing conflict, and requires, at its core, protection and promotion of human rights and efforts to address discriminatory structures and institutions.

In addition, as has been widely recognized and as we highlighted in our article on why women’s rights must be central to responses to COVID-19, the current pandemic is amplifying existing gender, racial, economic and political inequalities, and impacting those most marginalized, including people with diverse SOGIESC, people with disabilities, the elderly, the poor, and the displaced. Women are impacted due to their role as primary caregivers or healthcare workers, and are often less likely to be able to meet their own needs due to structural inequalities. As for women and girls in conflict-affected communities, COVID-19 is likely to hit them harder — as recognized by the UN Secretary-General, there has been an alarming surge in gender-based violence (GBV); combined with restrictions to essential services, such violence compounds existing risks for women and girls. The current pandemic underlines why preventing all forms of GBV against women requires ensuring the autonomy of those who are targeted and the full scope of their human rights, as well as the importance of enabling them to lead and contribute to the solutions to the crisis, rather than only seeking to protect them from violence.

The upcoming anniversary of the WPS agenda must be a call to action to the UN, Security Council and Member States to redouble their commitment to fully implement and advance the WPS agenda, defend the full scope of human rights, and galvanize efforts to address clearly identified gaps.

As a coalition dedicated to peace, gender equality and women’s rights, we firmly believe that the following 6 principles should guide any action:

  • Every conflict and crisis has specific gendered dimensions; there is no situation in which gender equality and women’s rights are not relevant. We advocate for the systematic incorporation of gender analysis and WPS obligations, including as enshrined in the ten WPS resolutions, in all conflict and crisis work, particularly within the country-specific discussions on the Security Council’s agenda, not only in thematic discussions on WPS.
  • Gender equality and human rights are legal obligations in conflict-affected situations, and violation of these rights must be recognized as an early warning sign and a root cause of conflict. The WPS agenda is both a peace and security issue, and a critical part of the human rights agenda. We therefore advocate for a rights-based approach to addressing all dimensions of the WPS agenda and for clear and outspoken leadership by the UN, Security Council and Member States on the importance of gender equality and human rights in maintaining peace and security.
  • We cannot achieve sustainable peace without the full, equal and meaningful participation and leadership of diverse women in all levels of decision-making. There is no substitute for direct participation of women in all aspects of peace and security, yet civil society continues to be regularly consigned to observer or other ad hoc roles despite the Global Study on the Implementation of Security Council 1325 (2000) specifically calling for an end to this practice. In addition, although parity in representation is an important first step in addressing gender inequality, it is not the fulfillment of feminist leadership, nor is it a substitute for fully implementing all components of the WPS agenda. Ensuring meaningful participation also requires dismantling the barriers to participation for the majority of women, not just supporting a small number of women to reach leadership positions.
  • An intersectional approach to gender equality is fundamental to the WPS agenda, and to the NGO Working Group’s (NGOWG) work. We recognize that race, ethnicity, religion, class, SOGIESC, age, marital status, pregnancy status, disability, migratory status, geographic location, economic status and other characteristics can be sources of both oppression and resilience, and intersecting forms of discrimination reflected in structural barriers must be recognized and addressed in order to achieve gender equality and the vision of the WPS agenda. Yet women are primarily referred to as a monolithic group throughout the work of the Security Council — our analysis showed that the experiences of particular groups of women and girls comprised less than 7% of all references in outcome documents and 6% of all references in reports of the Secretary-General in 2019, reflecting little acknowledgment of the unique challenges they face. Enabling the participation of diverse women — representative of a range of backgrounds and identities, including women with disabilities, women of diverse sexual orientation and gender identities, as well as women of diverse ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds — is critical in order to ensure gender equality, and that “women” are not treated as a homogenous group.
  • Civil society, including conflict-affected communities, peacebuilders, women-led and women’s rights organizations, and human rights defenders, are an integral part of the WPS agenda. Ensuring full and meaningful participation of diverse civil society organizations and representatives requires timely, systematic, transparent, inclusive, and substantive consultation in formal and informal processes in order to ensure that any action addresses clearly identified gaps and delivers real change to communities affected by conflict.
  • Without real accountability, there can be no real progress. As was highlighted by all three peace and security reviews undertaken in 2015 and reinforced by the independent assessment commissioned by the UN in 2019, greater accountability of all actors, particularly senior UN leadership and Member States, is a requirement for real progress on the WPS agenda. This requires fundamental recognition that addressing gender inequality is both an international legal obligation and a collective responsibility of the UN. Prioritizing and resourcing for women’s human rights, establishing clear standards for performance and implementation, as well as raising the cost of failure to implement, are essential for driving forward the WPS agenda.

With the above principles in mind, below we share concrete recommendations on how the UN, Security Council and Member States can advance WPS in five key areas in advance of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of Resolution 1325.

1. Prevention of conflict. Take decisive action to prevent conflict, end violence and avert crisis, including by addressing gendered drivers of conflict and instability.
2. Women’s meaningful participation. Ensure women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation in all aspects of peace and security.
3. Human rights defenders, peacebuilders and civil society space. Defend the legitimacy of the work of all human rights defenders and peacebuilders and their role in promoting peace and security, and effectively prevent and address attacks against them.
4. Gender equality and the human rights of all women and girls, including access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), must be central to maintaining international peace and security.
5. Accountability for implementation. In addition to ensuring implementation by Member States, promoting system-wide accountability of the UN for implementation of the WPS agenda.

http://Download report (PDF | 602.25 KB)

New EU Toolkit on Women Human Rights Defenders

July 8, 2020

On 7 July 2020 Front Line Defenders made public the toolkit on woman HRDs, a companion to the EU Guidelines of Human Rights Defenders (2004) which provide practical actions for EU staff in Brussels and in human rights defenders’ (HRDs) home countries to support and protect HRDs.

While useful, the Guidelines do not contain recommendations or actions that consider the varied experiences of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) with regard to gender, sexuality, race, class, family life, etc. This EU Toolkit on WHRDs provides practical steps for the EU to better meet the needs of WHRDs, from a gendered, intersectional perspective.

You can Download the EU Toolkit on WHRDs here.

As outlined in the UN Resolution on Women Human Rights Defenders, WHRDs experience violence in differentiated ways because of the work they do and who they are, as women. The UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs reports that “women defenders often face additional and different risks and obstacles that are gendered, intersectional and shaped by entrenched gender stereotypes and deeply held ideas and norms about who women are and how women should be.” In addition, there are many economic, social, cultural and geographical factors that affect how WHRDs experience violations. These factors include class, religion, age, language, sexual orientation, location, race and ethnicity. The UN calls all actors to develop specific gendered protection measures, and the inclusion of WHRDs in their design and implementation. The need for the toolkit has arisen because many protection measures are difficult to access for WHRDs as they face not only societal barriers to their work, but also in accessing the international community. The toolkit will help bridge that divide.

Following consultations with international WHRD networks, the EU Office of Front Line Defenders drafted a Toolkit for diplomats on how to address the specific protection needs of women human rights defenders at risk. It was presented to the EU Council Working Group on Human Rights, bringing together the EU institutions and diplomats from the 28 Member States, in Helsinki in October 2019, and shared again on occasion of the preparation of the Guidance Note for Delegations and Embassies by the EU Council Working Group on Human Rights. There are plans to have it tested in collaboration with WHRDs and diplomats in one or two countries per continent; the goal is to have this Toolkit adopted as an annex to the EU Guidelines on HRDs.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/resource-publication/eu-toolkit-whrds

Protection International seeks research consultant for Kenya

May 28, 2020

Protection International Kenya (PIK) – a registered a non-governmental organization in Kenya with support from its headquarters in Belgium – seeks a Research Consultant for Protection strategies implemented by grassroots WHRDs Organizations. Closing date for applications 12 June 2020.

The research findings will be used for future capacity building of WHRDs, advocacy on the promotion and protection of WHRDs/HRDs at national, regional and global level and for dissemination purposes. PIK, with the support of Protection International Africa and Protection International Global, will publish the findings and disseminate among its partners, donors, government officials and all other stakeholders.

For more details see: https://reliefweb.int/job/3638457/research-consultant-protection-strategies-implemented-grassroots-whrds

International Women’s Day 2020: Dad, a digital warrior in Pakistan

March 9, 2020

With her “Hack the patriarchy” laptop stickers, Nighat Dad is a digital warrior. But this human rights award winner and founder of Pakistan”s first cyber-harassment helpline still tears up as she describes receiving calls from women afraid of being killed by male relatives for using the internet. Nighat Dad established the help line in 2016 with prize money (100,000 euros) from the Dutch human rights award, the Tulip

Much of Pakistani society lives under the patriarchal, outdated code of so-called “honour” that systemises the oppression of women by preventing them from, for example, choosing their own husband or working outside the home. Activists have denounced pervasive, sometimes deadly violence by men — usually male relatives — against women who break those taboos. The situation is dire enough in the offline world.

But Pakistan is only just beginning to grapple with what violent notions of honour mean for women online, in a country where internet penetration is at 22 percent and growing, but digital literacy is low.

Much of the work the helpline does is to explain to women what recourse they have. Social media companies are playing ball, Dad says — some have even agreed to establish “escalation channels” for getting content off the internet quickly when a woman”s life is in immediate danger. But she warns that community guidelines developed by such companies, usually US-based, are not appropriate in Pakistan. “I think they need to do more,” Dad says. More than three years on, the Tulip money has run out. Now the helpline survives only by the grace of small grants from groups such as the Netherlands-based Digital Defenders Partnership, which supports rights activists.

…. She cites last year”s International Women”s Day march in Pakistan, which saw women turn out in unprecedented numbers loudly celebrating divorce and periods, among other things. The response was swift and shocking in its intensity, with Dad describing mullahs making rape and death threats against the march organisers in videos widely distributed online. The 2016 murder of social media star Qandeel Baloch has also impacted her, she says. Baloch divided Pakistan with her videos and selfies, tame by Western standards but provocative in Pakistan. She was strangled by her brother in 2016 in what has been called the country”s most high-profile “honour” killing.

She was a hero for me… she did what she wanted to do, and not every woman can do this in Pakistan,” Dad says.

Dad says she cannot help but see the similarities between herself and Baloch. They are from similar backgrounds, both left abusive marriages, and both have gained fame by loudly challenging social taboos online — though admittedly not in quite the same way. Her murder “shook me badly,” she tells AFP. “It was enough to shake us all.”

……

https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/nighat-dad-pakistans-digital-warrior-battling-the-patriarchy/1755905

https://www.rferl.org/a/pakistani-lawyer-fights-abuse-of-women-who-dare-to-go-online/30469845.html