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Women's Human Rights

    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!

    March 04, 2019
    It’s been more than 40 years since the UN chose 8 March as the day to celebrate the power and efforts of women worldwide. A rallying call for feminists everywhere, it has thrown light on sexism and misogyny, while amplifying the voices of sisters everywhere. But with all the progress women have made, is it really still necessary?

    These women show us it really is. And the millions of women around the world who are joining the International Women’s Day strike agree. While many will march, many others will stay home, showing their solidarity in other ways with all our sisters who are making fierce choices in the battle to have their basic rights respected. From the right to drive to the right to have their identities recognised, these fierce women – from every region in the world – are showing us that Women’s Day is as valid today as it was 44 years ago.


    © AFP/Getty Images

    March 04, 2019
    The rights of women and girls are at the heart of what we do. Here are some recent wins we’ve helped bring about alongside the many grassroots activists who have campaigned tirelessly for these outcomes.

    Find out how you can contribute to the next big wins for women's rights!

    © Sophie Garcia | hanslucas.comSophie Garcia www.sophiegarcia.net

    November 26, 2018

    Anielle Franco is an English teacher, former competitive volleyball player, parent of an energetic toddler, and a powerful grassroots advocate for the rights of black women in Brazil.

    She also happens to be the sister of renowned Brazilian women human rights defender and politician Marielle Franco, who was murdered in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year. Jackie Hansen, Amnesty’s Gender Rights Campaigner, reports on Anielle’s human rights work including her ongoing campaign for justice for Marielle.

    November 26, 2018
    On March 8, 2018—International Women’s Day—protesters in Mexico City marched to demand an end to violence against women.

    Women human rights defenders experience harassment and violence because of what they’re advocating for and because of their gender.

    People who advocate for freedom, justice, and equality often do so in an environment where they are demonized and restricted in their work. Many human rights defenders are smeared, threatened, physically attacked, criminalized and sometimes even killed, just for daring to stand up to those in power.

    Imagine now how much harder your life as a human rights defender must be if you were targeted not only for what you do but also for who you are: welcome to your life as a woman human rights defender.

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