Every day actions transform lives: Stop Torture and My Body My Rights campaigns
It may seem like just one letter, just one petition signature, or just one day tabling at a farmer’s market. But when every signature, every conversation, and every action are added together we accomplish extraordinary things we transform lives. And that’s just what we did through Amnesty's Stop Torture and My Body My Rights campaigns.
Over the past two years we campaigned for Canada to join a key torture prevention treaty, we took action to support torture survivors in Mexico as they seek justice, and we called on countries around the world to end the secrecy in detention centres which allows torture to take place. We raised awareness of sexual and reproductive health rights issues, helped secure the release of women in El Salvador imprisoned for having pregnancy-related complications, and successfully helped to change laws on early and forced marriage in Burkina Faso.
We did so much more than this, far more than we could list in one blog. What we have accomplished in just two years is truly amazing. Here are a few of the highlights.
More than two million people worked to Stop Torture
The Stop Torture campaign called for the establishment and implementation of effective safeguards against torture as key steps on the path to eradicating torture altogether. Where safeguards are effectively implemented, reports of torture fall dramatically. From May 2014-May 2016, more than two million people worldwide joined our call to governments to stop torturing and give survivors justice, achieving remarkable successes and impacting people’s lives as well as laws and practices.
Through our work on Stop Torture, we exposed governments who torture. We insisted that lawyers are present during interrogations, that doctors are on hand to examine detainees, that confessions obtained by torture can’t be used as evidence in courts, and that detainees are allowed to see their families. And we insisted that anyone who is involved in torture is brought to justice.
We took action in support of torture survivors seeking justice in Mexico. People like Ángel Colón, who was tortured and wrongly imprisoned in Mexico for six years. Tens of thousands of us demanded his release. When it finally came he told us: “My message to all those who are against torture is: ‘Don’t drop your guard. A new horizon is dawning’.” And it did.
After helping to secure Ángel’s release, we helped to secure the release of Adrián Vásquez, Cristel Piña, Alfonso Martín del Campo, and Yecenia Armenta. Our work to have all criminal charges against torture survivor Claudia Medina dropped was successful.
Ángel and Claudia are now outspoken anti-torture activists, and both had the opportunity to travel to Canada to share their personal experiences of torture with Canadian officials. Their experiences strengthened our resolve to take action to end torture, and their courage, resilience and hope inspired our activism.
We also helped to create policy changes in Mexico which are necessary to prevent torture and ensure that survivors have access to justice. In August 2015, Mexico’s Federal Attorney General’s Office approved a National Protocol for the Investigation of Torture, which was also approved by all state-level Attorneys General. Amnesty International was part of the group of NGOs and experts who were consulted for this Protocol. Many of our suggestions were taken on board. In November 2015 the Mexican government also consulted with internal and external stakeholders, including Amnesty International, in order to prepare the draft bill of the General Anti-Torture Law that is now under review by the Congress.
As a result of our sustained campaigning—and significant activism by young people from coast to coast to coast—the Canadian government declared that the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, a key torture prevention treaty, would no longer be optional for Canada.
After over a decade of campaigning for Canada to join this treaty, we celebrated this news in May 2016 in Ottawa. This announcement came at the end of a 24 hour blitz on Parliament Hill by the English and Francophone branches of Amnesty International Canada; a blitz that ended with an energized #StopTorture rally on the steps of Parliament led by amazing youth activists from across Ontario and Quebec.You can see photos from the two days here.
It’s your body, know your rights!
Over the course of the My Body My Rights campaign, we worked together to stop the control and criminalization of sexuality and reproduction – because whoever you are, wherever you live, you have the right to make these choices without fear, violence or discrimination. Being able to make our own decisions about our health, body and sexual life is a basic human right. Through our defence of those rights we have helped to break down barriers for women and girls around the world.
Our research and advocacy raised public awareness of El Salvador's total ban on abortion in all circumstances. El Salvador hasn't changed its laws yet, but we have made a tremendous difference in the lives of individual women jailed under this legislation. Our action on the case of Maria Teresa, who had been jailed in El Salvador for pregnancy-related complications, helped to secure her release. A similar action on behalf of Guadelupe, similarly jailed in El Salvador after a miscarriage, ended with her release from prison.
In 2015, one of our Write for Rights cases focused on early and forced marriage in Burkina Faso. Letters poured in from around the world and in response, Burkina Faso’s government agreed to take concrete steps to end child marriage. In December 2015, Burkina Faso adopted a national strategy and a three-year action plan to prevent and eliminate child marriage. This is a first step towards eradicating this practice once and for all. The strategy and plan followed public commitments from ministers and the traditional king to support My Body My Rights by addressing the obstacles that women and girls face when trying to access sexual and reproductive health services and information.
The Stop Torture and My Body My Rights global campaigns officially ended in May 2016, but ending torture, and ensuring that sexual and reproductive rights are respected, is core to Amnesty's work. Through the Stop Torture and My Body My Rights campaigns we stood up for sexual and reproductive rights and worked to end the use of torture worldwide. Thank you for taking a stand for human rights and playing a role in the success of these campaigns.
Thank you to the courageous and inspiring torture survivor advocates who shared their stories with us, agreed to be featured in our In/Visible Scars photo exhibition, and inspired our activism to call on Canada to take a stand to end torture once and for all, to help ensure that no one else has to experience what you and your families have gone through and continue to go through.
Thank you for taking action to transform lives—the lives of activists across the Canada who are now empowered to work to stop torture and protect sexual and reproductive rights, and the lives of the rightsholders on whose behalf you tirelessly advocated.
You have helped to change laws. You have helped secure the release of people who were unjustly imprisoned. And you have stood in solidarity with survivors as they seek justice.
Despite our achievements over the past two years, much work remains.
Sexual and Reproductive Rights
- El Salvador just announced that it is seeking to increase jail times for women convicted under the country's strict abortion laws.
- Stay up to date on all the latest news and actions related to sexual and reproductive rights in El Salvador, Burkina Faso, and around the world.
- Sign our action calling on Burkina Faso to go further in implementing practical measures to end early and forced marriage.
- Write a letter calling for the release of a woman in Argentina who has been detained for having a miscarriage.
- Call on those responsible for forcibly sterlizing thousands of women in Peru to be brought to justice.
- Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
- Canada has committed to joining the Optional Procotol to the Convention Against Torture—but it hasn't formally joined the treaty yet. Your continued action is needed to make sure the federal keeps its promise to join the Optional Protocol.
- Organize a showing of In/Visible Scars, a photo exhibition that tells the stories of eight courage activists—who also happen to be torture survivors—who live in Canada. Check out this video of Canadian torture survivors sharing their stories.
- We continue to advocate for individuals who have or remain at great risk of experiencing torture in detention centres around the world. Stay up to date on the latest news and actions.
- Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Amnesty is preparing to launch two new global campaigns. A campaign on the rights of refugees and migrants will launch this September, followed by the start of a new campaign in support of human rights defenders in March 2017. More information about both campaigns will be posted on our website as soon as it becomes available.