Posts Tagged ‘women human rights defenders’

Women human rights defenders in focus at 43rd Human Rights Council

February 27, 2020

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bachelet, taking part in a panel discussion, held at the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday 25 February 2020, said that the Beijing Declaration should be celebrated but noted that the Plan of Action agreed at the event is still unfinished. According to Ms. Bachelet, the risks of setbacks to women’s rights are real, and growing. ….”Women’s rights are threatened and attacked” on many fronts, she warned, adding that there over this period there has been “a backlash and the resurgence of gender inequality narratives based on age-old discrimination”. Ms. Bachelet also welcomed the speech delivered to the Human Rights Council by UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday. As part of his Call to Action for human rights [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/25/43rd-session-hrc-un-secretary-general-launches-call-to-action-on-human-rights/], He called on every country to “support policies and legislation that promote gender equality, to repeal discriminatory laws, to end violence against women and girls and to strive for equal representation and participation of women in all areas”.

Against this backdrop the NGO side eventWomen human rights defenders radically transforming a world in crisis” is most timely.

Wednesday 4 March 2020, 11:00 – 12:00, Room XXVII Palais des Nations, Geneva. This event is co-hosted by ISHR, Amnesty International, Global Fund for Women, Urgent Action Fund, Mesoamerican Initiative of women human rights defenders, and Just Associates (JASS).

Panellists:

  • Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders
  • Nazik Awad, Sudan
  • Aurelia Martin Arzu Rochez, Honduras
  • Luz Mary Rosero Garces, Colombia
  • Fatima Bentaleb, France
  • Hasmida Karim, Indonesia

Moderator:

  • Zephanie Repollo, Just Associates (JASS)

Huda Al-Sarari is the laureate of the 2020 Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders

February 22, 2020

On 19 February 2020 the Martin Ennals Foundation announced that is has granted Huda Al-Sarari, Yemeni lawyer and human rights defender, the 2020 Martin Ennals Award. Huda was among three women human rights defenders selected as finalists for the Award by a jury of ten of the world’s leading human rights organizations, along with Sizani Ngubane, South Africa, and Norma Librada Ledezma, Mexico. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/26/breaking-news-mea-has-3-women-hrds-as-finalists-for-2020/]

The 2020 Martin Ennals Award ceremony, co-hosted with the City of Geneva, was held on Wednesday 19 February, and for the first time in the history of the Award, all three finalists are women. “Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) are subject to the same risks as every human rights defender, but as women, they also face certain forms of violence and violations due to their gender. WHRDs are often stigmatized and ostracized by community leaders, faith-based groups and even family members”, said the Mayor of the City of Geneva, Sandrine Salerno.

Huda Al-Sarari is a Yemeni lawyer and human rights defender who graduated from Aden University. She also holds a masters in Women’s Studies and Development from the Women’s Centre at Aden University. Since 2015, Huda investigated, exposed and challenged the enforced disappearances that occurred as a result of secret prisons run by foreign governments in Southern Yemen where thousands of men and boys have suffered from arbitrary detention, torture and extrajudicial killings. She collected evidence on more than 250 cases of the abuse taking place within those prisons and succeeded in convincing international organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to take up the cause. “Being a human rights defender in Yemen is extremely challenging, and being a woman makes this even more difficult. In a male-dominated society, I have to prove myself maybe ten times more than a man”, explains Huda. Despite the threats, defamation campaigns and sacrifices she and her family endured, Huda continues to stand alongside the families of those who have disappeared.

Receiving the 2020 Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders means the world to me. It gives me great strength and emboldens me to continue this fight for justice”, she says. “I believe the Award will be incredibly important in drawing attention to the continual plight of victims of arbitrary detention, abuse and torture in Yemen”, she concluded.

As Chair of the Martin Ennals Award Jury, I myself added that “We commend Huda for the work that she conducted, not only against the backdrop of the ongoing Yemeni civil war, but also, in a country where women still struggle to express their political and civil rights. Huda’s legacy is crucial as her thorough investigations and search for accountability will serve to bring justice for human rights violations occurred during the conflict.

For more on this and other awards for human rights defenders see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/martin-ennals-award-for-human-rights-defenders. The Martin Ennals Jury is composed of 10 of the world’s leading human rights organisations. See: https://www.martinennalsaward.org/about-us-about-the-martin-ennals-award/

Being a Woman Human Rights Defender in Thailand is risky

February 10, 2020

Thai land rights activist Waewrin Buangern, or Jo, working in the fields in Ban Haeng village. Photo: Lam Le
Thai land rights activist Waewrin Buangern, or Jo, working in the fields in Ban Haeng village. Photo: Lam Le

Growing up, cassava farmer Nittaya Muangklang did not think she would ever become an activist – let alone that she would lead a group of land rights defenders in the first-ever bid to challenge Thailand’s government and its “take back the forests” policy at the Supreme Court. “We did encroach on the national park, but as poor farmers, we should be eligible for exemption,” said Muangklang, who is fighting eviction, imprisonment and fines. Faced with what farmers and rights groups perceive as increasing judicial harassment, more women living in rural areas have joined the fight for land rights in Thailand – amid the spectre of intimidation and the threat of jail time or even being killed for their activism. The appeal court last year sentenced Muangklang and 13 other land rights defenders from Ban Sap Wai village in Thailand’s northeast to up to four years in prison, and ordered them to pay fines of between 40,000 and 1.6 million baht (between US$1,300 and US$52,000) for encroaching on and damaging land in Sai Thong National Park. The court said the farmers failed to prove they had occupied the land before the park was established in 1992. Muangklang, out on bail since last August, said her family had not applied for a land certificate when they moved to Ban Sap Wai in 1986 because they never thought it necessary until the day they faced eviction.

..Thai NGOs estimate that at least 8,000 households have been threatened with eviction since 2015. Meanwhile, Thailand’s ruling junta has in the past five years given away around 999 hectares of forest conservation land as concessions to large corporations, including cement and mining companies, according to Land Watch Thai. Muangklang’s case caught the attention of United Nations special rapporteurs, who last August expressed their concern that Thailand was misusing the forest reclamation policy. In a letter to the government, the UN said Muangklang’s prosecution “appears to be a result of her work as a community leader”, and pointed out that the eviction of the Ban Sap Wai farmers might violate their human rights. The Thai government has yet to respond to the UN’s request to justify its prosecution of the farmers. Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment did not respond to This Week in Asia’s request for comment.

Being a female advocate for land rights in Thailand is a dangerous calling. In 2012, female activists Montha Chukaew and Pranee Boonnak were brutally killed. Since 2014, 225 female human rights defenders from Thailand’s rural areas have been subjected to judicial harassment, according to NGO Protection International, which estimates that 70 per cent of these activists are land rights defenders accused of encroaching on national parks and other lands. However, their work is often overlooked and underappreciated…Even when efforts are made to enshrine women’s rights, as is the case with gender equality in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a 17-section blueprint on achieving a sustainable future by 2030 – on-the-ground implementation when it comes to female land rights defenders tends to be lacking. “There’s a challenge there because many times states are not really connecting a human rights-based approach with [the SDGs’] development approach,” said Dubravka Simonovic, UN special rapporteur on violence against women. Thai human rights activist Matcha Phorn-in, who works with marginalised communities, agrees. “When the government is the key actor, [SDGs won’t work for] many people who oppose the government because of violations of human rights,” she said, explaining that this meant a lack of indicators and data to assess how female land rights defenders were being affected….On top of this, Phorn-in fears that millions of people could be affected, now that officials involved in the forest reclamation policy have search-and-destroy powers they can use without first needing court orders.

Protection International’s Somwong explained that with the labour involved in household and family-care duties, female activists were essentially “doing double work” while also facing the risk of sexual harassment. Consequently, rights groups have been calling for gender-sensitive support for these activists. “When you’re not protecting women, you’re not protecting the family, the community, or the movement,” Somwong said. Nine of the prosecuted Ban Sap Wai farmers are women.

…..

…Waewrin Buangern, or Jo, said it was her habit of questioning authority that led her to activism. She contended that the local authorities and the Kiew Lueng Company, which oversees the project, had not been transparent with local villagers on the environmental and economic impact of the mine. As a result, she and members of the conservation group have faced more than a dozen defamation lawsuits from the mining company as well as the local government. The project was put on hold in 2015 after the group counter-sued. The company got a mining permit in 2015 but has not been able to move forward since then due to the lawsuits. Jo has paid a steep price for her perseverance. She lost her job at the local school, another job as assistant to the village chief, and suffered two miscarriages due to the stress of activism, which also took its toll on her marriage and saw her divorce her husband. At 36, Jo’s main sources of income are farming and being an administrator of a Facebook group. But she has found a different family. Of the Rak Ban Haeng Conservation Group’s 1,400 members, 70 per cent are women. …….

Early last year, Ban Haeng villagers received a note that the government was planning to annex the forest the community had been relying on as a source of livelihood, and turn it into a national park. The villagers have submitted a letter of objection, stating that people are living in the area. Jo is positive that no one will get evicted. Unlike the Ban Sap Wai case, she said, the people of Ban Haeng had clear proof of the village’s history – a namesake temple that dates back to 1851….

https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/health-environment/article/3048456/thailands-female-land-rights-defenders-activism

Martin Ennals Award ceremony on 19 February – in Geneva and on internet

February 10, 2020

The MARTIN ENNALS AWARDS CERMONY 2020 will take place on Wednesday 19 February 2020, 18h00, at the Salle communale de Plainpalais in Geneva. It wil honour three women human rights defenders for their exceptional courage and dedication:

Ms Huda Al-Sarari, Yemen

Ms Norma Ledezma, Mexico

Ms Sizani Ngubane, South Africa

See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/26/breaking-news-mea-has-3-women-hrds-as-finalists-for-2020/

If you are in Geneva on 19 February please REGISTER . If not, note that the event with be live streamed. More information to follow on: https://www.martinennalsaward.org/.

Please spread the message.

Women human rights defenders and climate: a treasure of references

February 5, 2020

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On 4 February 2020 wrote in the New Security Beat an informative pieceUnsung Sheroes, Climate Action, and the Global Peace and Security Agendas“.

The December 2019 workshop on Gender, Peace and the Environment convened by the London School of Economics’ Centre for Women, Peace and Security and the University of Rosario’s Law School in Bogotá, Colombia, brought all of these interrelated perspectives together. Among other conclusions, the workshop acknowledged that indigenous women and girls are vital to more effective climate solutions, including building climate resilience in communities affected by violent conflict. However, their work is becoming increasingly fraught with danger. Criminal gangs, paramilitary groups, and private security forces from industries like mining, logging, dam construction, and agribusiness often target these indigenous environmental and human rights activists……

London School of Economic’s Keina Yoshida, one of the participants in the workshop on Gender, Peace and the Environment, reminded us of the “gender power structures, which result in violence against environmental, indigenous and women’s rights defenders such as Berta Cáceres.” Yet, as Ambassador Melanne Verveer notes in her Foreword to the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security’s report on Women and Climate Change, women are contributing to both adaptation and mitigation efforts and are creating innovative and localized solutions to build resilient communities. There is a reason for hope.

The article contains a helpful listing of relevant reports and documents on the role of women human rights defenders and climate change:

For some of my earlier posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/women-human-rights-defenders/


Unsung Sheroes, Climate Action, and the Global Peace and Security Agendas

 

Front Line Defenders Global Analysis 2019 is out: 304 HRDs killed

January 14, 2020

The most dangerous and deadly sector of human rights defenders remains land, environmental and indigenous rights, according to the Global Analysis report 2019 by Front Line Defenders. 304 people across 31 countries were targeted and killed last year and the document starts by listing their names.

Front Line Defenders said this was due to “the profit driven exploitation of natural resources, combined with corruption, weak governments and poverty“. Speaking to RTÉ News, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders, Andrew Anderson, described the scale of the killings as “horrific” ..almost one person a day is being killed around the world because they are working “peacefully to defend land rights, environmental rights” and to “hold the powerful to account”.  “The true scale of the problem is probably much higher” he said.

In the cases for which the data is available, the report found:

  • 85% of those killed last year had previously been threatened either individually or as part of the community or group in which they worked
  • 13% of those reported killed were women
  • 40% of those killed worked on land, indigenous’ peoples and environmental issues

Last year saw mounting pressure on activists defending LGBTI rights, as well as women’s rights and migrants’ rights. Female activists faced online smear campaigns, trolling and defamation to intimidate, shame or harass in order to push women activists out of online spaces. The statistics show that 13% of human rights defenders killed in 2019 were women. The report also notes some positive developments, including the male guardianship system being revoked in Saudi Arabia, women from the Sulaliyat tribe in Morocco being able to inherit and own land, and Sudan removing a law where women could be arrested if found dancing, wearing trousers or mixing with men who were not their relatives.

With massive protests in Iran, Hong Kong and Chile, Front Line Defenders said that 2019 was characterised by waves of public uprisings of “remarkable magnitude”, which demanded change of how people are governed. However, it said there were restrictions on freedom of expression and authorities often invoked “security” as a justification to ban all peaceful demonstrations Physical assaults, defamation campaigns and digital attacks were major issues.

Internet shutdowns, restricting access or blocking communication tools, such as social media, were common. Messaging app WhatsApp, which is popular for organising and communications, became a “serious threat” when it was used against human rights defenders in a number of cases.

As the role of human rights defenders ranged from organising and mobilising to monitoring and documenting human rights violations, the human rights organisation said it provided more than 620 protection grants to activists at risk in 2019.

For last year’s report see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/09/front-line-defenders-says-record-number-of-activists-killed-in-2018/

https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2020/0114/1107280-front-line-defenders/

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2020/jan/14/300-human-rights-activists-killed-2019-report

Dakar Rally starts on 5 January in Jeddah but HRDs in jail

January 4, 2020

4th Annual Global Women’s March is on 18 January 2020

January 1, 2020

2020 women's march BELatina

On January 21st of 2017, millions of women and allies around the world took to the streets to make themselves seen and heard, demonstrating to advance women’s human rights. Now, nearly three years later, the Women’s March movement has announced that on 18 January, 2020, feminists and women’s human rights defenders will march yet again in the 4th Annual Global Women’s March.

Common Dreams also reported that women and men alike marched in France, Spain, Uganda, and other countries in November 2019 to demand that their elected officials work to end violence against women. In Spain, tens of thousands of people marched to recognize the day. But as the New York Times reported, the country’s far-right Vox Party—which, though still a minority party, doubled its representation in Parliament in recent elections—used the opportunity to affirm its opposition to a law aimed at protecting women from gender-based violence. Women gathered at City Hall in Madrid shouted, “This is shameful!” as Vox secretary-general Javier Ortega Smith spoke out against the law and called for national attention to men who are killed by their partners.

Women during a protest on the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in Nantes, France, on November 25, 2019. (Photo: Estelle Ruiz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Women during a protest on the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in Nantes, France, on November 25, 2019. (Photo: Estelle Ruiz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

As part of the global effort, the International Labor Organization (ILO) called for ratification of its new Convention, adopted in June, to recognize the right of all people to be free from harassment and violence in their workplaces. “This commitment now needs to be turned into concrete, practical action,” the ILO wrote. “Violence and harassment in the world of work has enormous human, social and economic costs. Violence and harassment constitutes one of the greatest threats to decent work. No more excuses. Let’s work together and make the promise of Convention No. 190 a reality for all.”

It’s Official! The 4th Annual Global Women’s March is in January of 2020

New Amnesty report: Governments failing women human rights defenders

December 1, 2019

Women in Lahore, Pakistan, march to mark International Women's Day 2019
Women in Lahore, Pakistan, march to mark International Women’s Day 2019 © Ema Anis for Amnesty International

Governments around the world are failing to protect women human rights defenders from increasing attacks, Amnesty International said on 29 November 2019, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day. In a new report –Challenging power, fighting discrimination” – based on interviews with 23 activists across 21 countries, Amnesty highlights how women human rights defenders continue to be assaulted, threatened, intimidated, criminalised and even killed for their campaigning.

Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said: “Women human rights defenders are attacked because of who they are and what they do. The risks are even greater for those facing intersecting forms of discrimination: if you are a woman and from a racial minority, indigenous, poor, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or a sex worker, you have to fight so much harder to have your voice heard by those in power…All over the world, women human rights defenders are speaking out against injustice, abuse and discrimination, often because they have experienced it first-hand…..They are central to human progress: they fight for human rights and against patriarchy and racism, while pushing for ground-breaking reforms on so many fronts. Governments must live up to their commitment to ensure these activists can operate freely and safely.

In recent years, campaigners working on the rights of women, LGBTI people and other marginalised groups have come under growing pressure from politicians, religious leaders and violent groups. Women campaigning on these issues tend to be the first to be targeted in increasingly frequent backlashes against a more inclusive, fairer world.

Sexual violence

The report highlights several cases in which violence, including sexual violence as a form of torture, was used against women human rights defenders to silence them. In Bahrain, Ebtisam El-Saegh, an activist with the human rights organisation SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, was sexually assaulted, badly beaten, kicked in the stomach and kept standing for most of the seven hours she was being interrogated while in detention in 2017. El-Saegh told Amnesty: “I was threatened that they would harm my family and that they would bring my husband and torture and electrocute him. The men told me ‘no one can protect you’.”

In Egypt, Malak al-Kashef, a 19-year-old transgender woman human rights defender was arrested in March this year following her involvement in peaceful protests in Cairo. She faced trumped-up charges of ‘aiding a terrorist organisation’ and ‘misusing social media to commit a crime punishable by law.’ While in detention, she was subjected to a forced anal examination and other forms of sexual assault. Even though she was undergoing gender affirming treatment, Malak was placed in an all-male detention facility which put her at increased risk of sexual violence. She was eventually released in July this year.

Smear campaigns

Women activists are often subjected to smear campaigns which vilify their “deviant behaviour” and are designed to fuel hostility against them. After rescuing migrants from the central Mediterranean Sea in June 2019, Carola Rackete, the Italian captain of the rescue boat Sea-Watch 3, was repeatedly insulted by the Italian Minister of Interior who called her a pirate and a criminal. His slurs were followed by vicious verbal attacks by others who incited sexual violence against her while also targeting her gender and appearance.

In Mauritania, Mekfoula Brahim, a woman human rights defender who has campaigned for an end to female genital mutilation, was branded an apostate in 2016 Facebook posts after defending a blogger sentenced to death for criticising those who use religion to discriminate against minorities. The slur exposed her to the risk of being prosecuted and sentenced to death.

https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/ACT3011392019ENGLISH.PDF

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/governments-failing-protect-women-activists-increasing-attacks-new-report

http://www.voxy.co.nz/politics/5/353494

Afghanistan: human rights defenders targeted but fearless

November 26, 2019

Afghanistan’s top intelligence agency must immediately release two human rights defenders it detained after they exposed alleged sexual abuse against children. Musa Mahmudi and Ehsanullah Hamidi, both well-known human rights defenders from Logar province, were arbitrarily detained by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) on 21 November 2019 when they were on their way to meet with the European Union ambassador in Kabul.

The two human rights defenders began receiving threats, including from local officials in Logar, on Facebook after they gave interviews to The Guardian and Afghanistan’s TOLO News about the existence of a paedophile ring in the area. The human rights defenders uncovered more than 100 videos of the alleged abuse. Some of the victims of abuse have been murdered, according to The Guardian. “This is the latest case where human rights defenders have been targeted by the authorities for carrying out their important work. Faced with threats from both the state and non-state actors, they are operating in some of the most hazardous conditions anywhere in the world. There is impunity for attacks on these brave defenders, who have little to no protection.”

One day before he disappeared, Musa Mahmudi told a fellow Afghan human rights defender that he feared for his safety and that the NDS was planning to arrest him. He added that he was worried that he was under surveillance. Musa Mahmudi said that he had also received death threats, accusing him of “dishonouring the people of Logar.” In August 2019, Amnesty International published a briefing entitled, Defenceless Defenders: Attacks on Afghanistan’s Human Rights Community,” where the organization detailed how the Afghan government has persistently failed to investigate attacks on human rights defenders – sometimes accusing them of ‘fabricating’ their claims, declining to offer them protection; telling them to arm themselves instead. [on 26 november: https://www.rferl.org/a/afghan-president-orders-probe-into-alleged-pedophile-ring/30293787.html] and then; https://www.rferl.org/a/afghanistan-releases-activists-who-exposed-alleged-pedophile-ring/30294906.html

The same day AI continued with its series of 16 omen human rights defenders from Afghanistan16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” campaign [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/19/16-days-of-activism-against-gender-based-violence-start-on-25-november-2019/]. Untill December 10, their stories will be published one a day.

Day two: Maria Raheen

I am the director of the Journalism and Mass Communication Unit at Balkh University. I also head a non-governmental organization that works on human rights. For 20 years, as a women’s rights activist, I have pushed to address issues that prevent women from accessing their rights, not only in Balkh but also in other neighbouring provinces such as Samangan, Jowzjan, and Faryab.

One of my achievements is the establishment of the first private university in Balkh – Taj Higher Education Institute, which offers medicine, economy and law. Similar to Kabul, Herat and Kandahar, Balkh has some developments and achievements in terms of women’s rights. However, the province is still well known for the presence of armed groups, the local mafia and warlords, who have no respect for human rights. Due to existing challenges and the weak rule of law, self-censorship is embedded in the day-to-day lives of people in Balkh.

I am no stranger to tolerating injustices, especially when it is a matter of saving my life and my family’s lives. It gets challenging especially when it involves former war commanders who are now elected representatives of the area and, who would not hesitate to exert their power to commit crimes.

I hope in future like-minded women will join hands for the women’s revolution in Afghanistan, to reclaim the rights that we are entitled to.

Day one: Khawar Amiri

I am the Head of the Literacy Department of the Directorate of Education in Khost Province and have worked for many years as a mediator for women’s issues. As most women of Khost Province are illiterate, and some districts are yet to establish schools for girls, through the Literacy Department, I have conducted courses for women and girls above the age of 14 to enable their basic reading and writing skills. As a well-known human rights defender, I have worked in solving many of women’s issues through the Committee on Elimination of Violence against Women and tribal Jirgas (councils), with help of the police.

Women in Khost are exposed to discrimination and violence. Girls’ education is till grade six, after which they are sent off to marriage or asked to stay home. Forced marriages, being sold off, physical violence, lack of access to inheritance rights are some of the issues women face on daily basis.  Women don’t work in government posts in Khost, as most of the positions are held by men. Women are discouraged from applying for government positions as their posts are given to men and justified with unlawful reasons for not being appointed.

I have intervened in many cases of women being abused, sometimes solving the case with the help of local elders and at times through direct mediation. One of my biggest successes is organizing a Master’s Degree programme for women in Khost to study in India, funded by the US Embassy. Despite being threatened and attacked, I am continuing my activism.

I hope women are independent, have security, and have equal opportunities for studies, get to live a life free from violence. 

You can send a solidarity message to all of the 16 WHRDs in Afghanistan, or any one of them, and let them know that they are not alone. Please email your thoughts in a personal message to AfghanDefenders@amnesty.org and AI will share them with the activists.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/11/afghanistan-release-hrds-now/

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/11/16-days-of-activism-afghanistan-whrds/