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Women activists around the world have been at the forefront of the battle for human rights in 2018, Amnesty International said today as it launched its review on the state of human rights over the past year.
The human rights group also warns that the actions of “tough guy” world leaders pushing misogynistic, xenophobic and homophobic policies has placed freedoms and rights that were won long ago in fresh jeopardy.
“In 2018, we witnessed many of these self-proclaimed ‘tough guy’ leaders trying to undermine the very principle of equality – the bedrock of human rights law. They think their policies make them tough, but they amount to little more than bully tactics trying to demonize and persecute already marginalized and vulnerable communities,” said Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
“But it is women activists who have offered the most powerful vision this year of how to fight back against these repressive leaders.”
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.
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.
Alisa Lombard is an associate with Maurice Law, Canada’s first national Indigenous-owned law firm, and the lead on a proposed class action law suit in Saskatchewan brought by two women who claim having been forcibly or coercively sterilized between 2000-2010. Over 60 women have reached out reporting they were sterilized without proper and informed consent, most from Saskatchewan, and also from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario.
We spoke with Alisa the week the issue of the ongoing practice of forced and coerced sterilizations of Indigenous women and girls in Canada became headline news, prompting calls for urgent action to end this human rights violation and provide justice for the survivors.
Canadian and international media are reporting on the ongoing practice of coerced of forced sterilizations of Indigenous women in Canada. Here’s what you need to know.
What is forced sterilization and coerced sterilization?
Take ACTION to help us make an IMPACT during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign in November-December!
Amnesty International Canada has long been campaigning alongside organizations like Women's Shelters Canada for a National Action Plan to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence. Read this to learn more about why Canada so badly needs a national action plan.
We are trying to collect as many petition signatures as possible in 2018, to let the federal government know that people across Canada are outraged about the inconsistency in the supports and services available to survivors of gender-based violence! These inconsistencies can be addressed if municipal, provincial, territorial, First Nations, and federal leaders come together with people with lived experience and other relevant expertise to develop a national action plan. Signatures will be handed over to the federal government in 2019.
By Alex Neve
Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada
Last week, two prominent and courageous women’s rights activists, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada, were arrested in Saudi Arabia.
No one imagined that on top of the personal injustice for Samar and Nassima that their arrest was going to spark a major diplomatic stand-off between Canada and Saudi Arabia about human rights. And in doing so, put Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record in the international spotlight in ways that it rarely is.
Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada are, sadly, two more in a growing list of women human rights defenders arrested and jailed in Saudi Arabia over the past three months. That includes Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef, imprisoned since mid-May. Loujain has strong Canadian connections, as she is a graduate of the University of British Columbia.
Responding to Saudi Arabia’s announcement, on August 5th, of diplomatic and trade measures against Canada, in retaliation for recent Canadian government calls for prisoners of conscience to be freed in the country, Amnesty International Canada said the aggressive action points to an urgent need for greater international pressure for genuine and lasting human rights reform in Saudi Arabia.
Measures announced include the recall of Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador from Canada, a demand that Canada’s Ambassador leave Saudi Arabia within 24 hours and a suspension of new trade and investment. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry accused Canada of “overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs” of the country. The move came following a tweet three days earlier from Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, indicating that Canada was, “Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.”
Today’s decision by a Sudanese court to quash Noura Hussein’s death sentence and replace it with a five-year prison term for killing her husband in self-defence during an attempted rape must be a catalyst for a legal review in Sudan, said Amnesty International.
Noura Hussein was sentenced to death on 10 May 2018. Her husband, Abdulrahman Mohamed Hammad, suffered fatal knife wounds during a scuffle at their home after he had attempted to force himself on her with the help of three other men. The revised sentence means she will spend five years in jail from the date of her arrest and will have to make a dia (blood money) payment of 337,500 Sudanese pounds (around US$8,400).
“While the quashing of this death sentence is hugely welcome news, it must now lead to a legal review to ensure that Noura Hussein is the last person to go through this ordeal,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“Noura Hussein was the victim of a brutal attack by her husband and five years’ imprisonment for acting in self-defence is a disproportionate punishment.
Vitalina Koval, a 28-year-old LGBTI and women’s rights activist—and a central figure in the LGBTI community in Ukraine—has been attacked, harassed, and is in need of protection.
Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow women to drive is welcome but must now be followed by more reforms to women’s rights, Amnesty International said today.
This weekend (Sunday 24 June) women will be allowed to drive in the country as the controversial driving ban is lifted.
However, leading women’s rights activists and campaigners against the driving ban - including Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef - are among eight activists still being detained in Saudi Arabia for their peaceful human rights work. Some have been detained without charge for more than one month, and may face trial before the counter-terror court and up to 20 years in prison for their activism.
The women’s rights activists detained have campaigned for the right to drive and the end of the repressive male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia for many years.
By Monica Benício
This op-ed was written by Monica Benício, the widow of Marielle Franco, a courageous women human rights defender who was murdered in Brazil in March 2018. It was originally published in Portuguese in O Globo on June 12th, to mark Brazilian Valentine's Day.
The international community and allies of the Saudi Arabian government must speak up to help secure the immediate and unconditional release of the women’s rights defenders currently detained in Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International said today.
More than two weeks have now passed since a number of prominent women’s rights activists, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Youssef were arrested, and yet they remain detained without charge and incommunicado with no access to their families or lawyers.
Yesterday, the European Parliament issued a resolution calling for their unconditional release and that of all human rights defenders. It also called for a more vocal European response.
“The Saudi Arabian authorities’ endless harassment of women’s rights activists is entirely unjustifiable, and the world must not remain silent on the repression of human rights defenders in the country”, said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns.
Since the 1990s, women in Saudi Arabia have been advocating for the right to drive cars. The driving ban was overturned last year, and women will finally be allowed to drive starting June 24, 2018.
But just weeks before the ban is set to be lifted, Saudi authorities have detained—without charge—and held incommunicado, some of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent and outspoken women human rights defenders, including University of British Columbia graduate Loujain al-Hathloul. At least 11 women human rights defenders have been arrested and six remain in detention. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, none have been charged with an offense. They have no access to lawyers or their families, and they are at risk of torture or ill-treatment.
The activists arrested have all peacefully advocated for women’s right to drive, an end to the male guardianship system, and gender equality. Arresting the most prominent women’s rights advocates could decimate the women’s rights movement in Saudi Arabia.