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Women's Human Rights

    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.

    September 02, 2020

    This November, Saudi Arabia is hosting the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Riyadh. The Summit will bring together some of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, including Canada, to address global issues, and it is an important moment for Saudi Arabia to strike business deals and grow its diplomatic power.

    Hosting the G20 Summit is part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to improve its image. But the glamour of hosting a major global summit masks what is really going on in Saudi Arabia—a brutal government campaign of repression, intolerance, and human rights violations.

    Under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (MBS), human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, writers, artists, religious clerics, protestors and bloggers have been persecuted, silenced, detained, tortured and handed lengthy prison sentences for demanding reforms and advocating for peaceful change. Several were sentenced to death and executed based on so-called “confessions” extracted under torture.

    July 13, 2020

    Narges Mohammadi is one of the most prominent human rights activists in Iran. Narges has campaigned in support of women’s rights and gender equality, run an organization calling for abolishment of the death penalty, served as president of the National Council of Peace in Iran, and is vice-president of the Center for Human Rights Defenders. She is a physicist, an engineer, and an avid mountain climber. She is also a prisoner of conscience serving a 22 year sentence in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, and she desperately needs you to write a letter to Iranian authorities calling for her immediate and unconditional release.  

    DOWNLOAD THE PDF OF UA 105/15 HERE

    June 17, 2020

    Earlier today, Canada lost its bid to be elected to a two-year term on the United Nations Security Council. Despite this loss, Canada can and must still advance its global goals through its Feminist Foreign Policy.

    Canada must play a constructive global role through continuing to support efforts to advance gender equality and the rights of women, girls and gender-diverse people across all areas of its foreign policy. 

    Canada must work to implement its Security Council campaign pledge to ‘make gender inequality history.’ This will involve significant new investments in supporting women peacebuilders and human rights defenders, strengthening women’s participation in peace negotiations and addressing sexual violence in conflict. “The security of women and girls is a key indicator of state security,” said Beth Woroniuk of the Equality Fund. “In its campaign, Canada made promises to advance the rights of women and girls. Carrying through on these promises will involve investments and courage to challenge international voices opposed to women’s rights.”

    June 04, 2020

    On May 22, over 20 women’s rights and equality-seeking organizations in Canada wrote a joint letter to the federal government, calling for low-barrier emergency income supports for sex workers, who thus far have been left out of the pandemic response in Canada.

    In response, rather than moving forward with a mechanism to provide income supports to sex workers, government responded in a subsequent meeting with advocates by suggesting that local organizations working with sex workers apply to the $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund announced in May by Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development Ahmed Hussen. Most sex worker rights groups and other grassroots organizations serving marginalized communities do not fit the stated criteria to apply for such funds because they are often not registered non-profits or charities, and are made up of the marginalized individuals who have been left out of the pandemic response. In addition, the Fund does not cover income replacements.

    June 01, 2020

    Russian activist and artist Yulia Tsvetkova is facing absurd charges under Russia’s ‘gay propaganda laws.’ She faces six years in prison—simply because she posted art on social media.

    Russian authorities arrested and charged Yulia with ‘production and dissemination of pornographic materials’ after she posted body-positive pictures of women on social media.

    They later charged her with the same offence because she posted a drawing showing support for LGBTI families.

    Police raided Yulia’s house in November, calling her a ‘lesbian, sex trainer and propagandist leader.’

    This is not the first time Yulia has been targeted. She’s also been fined 50,000 rubles for being the administrator of an LGBTI Facebook page.

    Background

    Yulia has been the target of an overtly homophobic campaign since March 2019. In reaction to her public campaigning for women’s and LGBTI rights, she has faced harassment, arrest, and unfounded prosecution from authorities.

    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.

    August 02, 2019

    Saudi Arabia must follow up on crucial reforms announced today to address women’s rights by ending its persecution of women’s rights defenders and immediately and unconditionally releasing those who are currently detained for their peaceful activism, said Amnesty International.

    Saudi Arabian newspapers announced major reforms to several laws easing some of the major restrictions which are imposed on women as part of the country’s repressive male guardianship system. The reforms will allow women the right to obtain a passport that should make it possible for them to travel without the permission of a male guardian. They also give women equal rights to lead household and some family-related matters.

    “The reforms announced today are a significant but long overdue step forward for women’s rights. These changes are a clear testament to the tireless campaigning of women’s rights activists who have battled against rampant discrimination in Saudi Arabia for decades,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director. 

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