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Women's Human Rights

    January 11, 2021

    As we came together to mark International Women’s Day last year, we had no idea that the world was about to shut down and that hard-won women’s rights were about to be put to the test during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Over the past year, because of the pandemic, we have seen the number of women experiencing gender-based violence go up, the hours women dedicate to unpaid care work skyrocket, threats faced by women human rights defenders increase, marginalized groups including sex workers become further marginalized, access to sexual and reproductive health services decrease, and the number of women in the paid labour force plummet.

    But we have also seen activists come together to demand that governments address the violence, ensure access to sexual and reproductive health services, protect activists, advocate for the rights of sex workers, and demand access to affordable and high-quality childcare.

    December 17, 2020

    BREAKING NEWS - Loujain was convicted on December 28. Read here for further details.

    Thirty-one year old Loujain al-Hathloul is one of the most celebrated women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia for good reason. She was one of the leaders of the campaign for Saudi women to have the right to drive vehicles. She advocated against the male guardianship system. She wanted to set up frontline services to support survivors of gender-based violence. She networked with other activists and organizations, attended international conferences, and testified on Saudi Arabia’s women’s rights record at the United Nations.

    Instead of being celebrated for her tireless and impactful activism, Loujain has been jailed since 2018, subjected to torture and other forms of ill treatment, held incommunicado for long periods of time without access to independent legal counsel and family visits, charged with terrorism-related offenses, and she could face up to twenty years in prison.

    November 01, 2020

    From November 21-22, Saudi Arabia hosted the G20 Leaders’ Summit. The Summit brought together some of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, including Canada, to address global issues. We let Canada and other G20 member states know that if they didn't make women's rights and freedoms their business at the G20, they'd legitimize Saudi Arabia's atrocious human rights record. We called on G20 member states to #UnmuteSaudiVoices & #FreeSaudiFeminists

    On November 24, Saudi Arabia announced a trial hearing for the five jailed women human rights defenders. The hearing was held on November 25 and instead of releasing Loujain, the court moved her case to the Specialized Criminal Court (anti-terrorism court). In the wake of this news, we need to keep up our activism even though the G20 Leaders' Summit has now passed!

    September 10, 2020

    By Josefina Salomón & Christopher Alford

    For decades, women human rights defenders across Latin America have been fighting an uphill battle to ensure sexual and reproductive rights, including access to safe abortion, are a reality for all. Over the last five months that battle has turned into a war.

    The figures have been shocking for a long time. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned them into a catastrophe, with a potential bleak future.

    Over the last five months, already high rates of violence against women have risen exponentially across the world. Countries such as Chile and Mexico have reported increases of more than 50 percent in calls to emergency helplines for women who are victims and survivors of violence.

    Experts worry about the many women who are trapped at home with their abusers without access to a phone, a computer or anyone they can contact for help or support.

    May 29, 2020

    Women human rights defenders help make sure we have access to sexual and reproductive health information and services. They help run women’s shelters and sexual assault crisis centres and drop-in centres. They call out discrimination and work to overturn unjust structures, systems, and policies. All incredibly valuable work that’s needed now more than ever during a global pandemic, right?

    But too many women human rights defenders around the world remain in prison, jailed for peacefully promoting women’s rights, and at increased risk as COVID-19 spreads through prisons in some countries. Too many activists and journalists are being threatened for their reporting on COVID-19. And too many women human rights defenders who are socially distancing at home are being targeted for harassment and violence because those who want to harm them now where they can find them at all times—home.

    Now more than ever we need to ramp up our activism in solidarity with women human rights defenders around the world. Below are a few actions you can take now. We will add more actions in the coming weeks and months.

    May 13, 2020

    The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating existing gender inequalities as lockdowns lead to higher rates of gender-based violence, less access to sexual and reproductive health services, increased unpaid care work, and much more. Not all women, girls, and gender diverse people are experiencing the pandemic in the same way. Women with disabilities, refugee and migrant women, Indigenous and minority women, LBTI women, women experiencing discrimination based on work and women living in poverty face heightened risks of discrimination, violence, and other rights violations. A pandemic is not an excuse to violate women’s rights!

    Read on to learn more!

    April 23, 2020

    Jenn Clamen is a powerful advocate for the rights of sex workers in Canada and around the world, and she is the Montreal-based National Coordinator for the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform. The Alliance is a coalition of sex worker and allied organizations across Canada advocating for law and policy reform that respects and upholds the rights and safety of sex workers. Members of the Alliance have expertise, analysis and experience on the impact of criminal and other sex work-related prohibitions on the lives and wellbeing of those who sell or trade sex.

    Six weeks into COVID-related lockdowns across Canada, Jenn took time to speak with Amnesty about the devastating impacts that  responses to COVID-19 are having on sex workers in Canada.

    What’s changed for sex workers since the pandemic started? Has the pattern of human rights violations experienced by sex workers changed, and if so, how?

    The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the inequalities and human rights violations that the diversity of sex workers in our communities experience.

    February 27, 2020

    Lise Martin is the Executive Director of Women’s Shelter’s Canada, a national network of shelters and transition houses whose motto is “shelters support women and children fleeing violence. We support the shelters.” The organization works to ensure that government actions to end gender-based violence and violence against women are rights-based and informed by the experiences and insights of their members from across Canada. They led a collaborative process to create a Blueprint for Canada’s National Action Plan on Violence against Women, which Amnesty International endorsed, and lead advocacy in support of a National Action Plan.

    Amnesty spoke with Lise in Ottawa in the lead-up to International Women’s Day 2020.

    December 05, 2019

    The Slovak Parliament voted on December 5 against a bill that would have undermined women’s privacy and autonomy in decision-making about healthcare. It would also have subjected women to harmful stigma and degrading treatment.

    In a joint letter published on 18 November, more than 30 organizations - including Amnesty International - called on all Slovak MPs to reject the draft law. If passed, it would have required women seeking abortion care to fulfil several mandatory requirements, such as ultrasound scanning, that are not justified by medical reasons. The World Health Organization states that there is no medical reason for routine ultrasound prior to abortion. It emphasizes that women’s decisions to access abortion care should be respected and that safe abortion should be “delivered in a way that respects a woman’s dignity, guarantees her right to privacy and is sensitive to her needs and perspectives.”

    This outcome is a huge victory for women.

    September 17, 2019

    Alejandra Barrera, a transgender Salvadorian activist who had been held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention since November 2017, was released September 6, 2019, as a result of international advocacy efforts, spearheaded by Amnesty International, the Translatin@ Coalition, National Immigrant Justice Center, and dozens of members of the United States Congress.

    August 21, 2019

    In response to a ruling by a court today in El Salvador under which Evelyn Hernández was acquitted of charges for aggravated homicide, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said:

    “This is a resounding victory for the rights of women in El Salvador. It reaffirms that no woman should be wrongly accused of homicide for the simple fact of suffering an obstetric emergency. Now that Evelyn has been acquitted, Amnesty International calls on El Salvador to end the shameful and discriminatory practice of criminalizing women once and for all by immediately revoking the nation’s draconian anti-abortion laws.”

    Background information

    On 6 April 2016, Evelyn Hernández, 21, suffered an obstetric emergency in her home in El Salvador which resulted in the loss of her pregnancy. Once at hospital, attending staff reported her to the police. She was arrested, tried, and sentenced to 30 years in jail for aggravated homicide. In 2018, a higher court overturned this ruling and ordered a re-trial.

    August 20, 2019

    Because of persistently high levels of gender-based violence, because women are still being sterilized without their consent, because of the gender wage gap and lack of economic security for women and non-binary people… we need all candidates in the October federal election to discuss women’s rights and gender equality issues.

    In 2015, Amnesty International was part of a coalition that advocated for such a debate. But not all parties were willing to participate in a debate on issues directly impacting half of Canada’s population. In fact, the last federal leader’s debate on women’s rights and gender equality issues was 35 years ago!

    When you engage with federal election candidates in your riding, let them know what gender equality is not yet a reality and we demand that the issues impacting women and non-binary people in Canada be directly addressed in the federal election campaign.

    June 14, 2019

    Quebec Native Women was founded in 1974 to fight sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act. Forty-five years later, this discrimination persists. Amnesty International spoke with Quebec Native Women’s Legal and Policy analyst Éloïse Décoste to learn more about steps her organization is taking to end sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act once and for all. Here’s what she had to say.

    TAKE ACTION NOW For people who aren’t familiar with the issue, can you please tell me how the Indian Act discriminates against Indigenous women?

    The Indian Act determines who is consider an Indian in the eyes of the government. Historically, an Indian* would be defined as a man, his wife, and his children. When an Indian woman married a man without Indian status, she lost her own status and could not pass her status on to her children. This was the situation until 1985.

    May 27, 2019

    Women engaged in sex work in the Dominican Republic are routinely raped, tortured, and humiliated by police as a form of social control, and as punishment for transgressing social norms surrounding femininity and sexuality. Transgender women suffer particularly extreme forms of sexual abuse and humiliation due to the additional transphobia they face. We must demand their protection and rights now.

    Amnesty International documented the stories of women that have been subjected to these abuses in “If they can have her, why can’t we?,” a report published in April 2019.

    Luna’s story

    In this video, Luna explains how transphobia and homophobia in the Dominican Republic influence particular forms of gender-based violence against people like her, engaged in sex work, and how their activism has helped to bring about change.

    May 03, 2019

    Iranian lawyer and women’s rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh’s heartbreaking letters from prison reveal the trauma inflicted on families by the government that claims to protect them.

    TAKE ACTION: Free Nasrin Now!

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