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Many governments do not protect women who defend human rights

by Ace Damon
Many governments do not protect women who defend human rights

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Women human rights defenders remain a target of intimidation, threat and aggression because there are still governments around the world that do not protect them, Amnesty International concludes in a report released Thursday.

"Many women are eventually criminalized or even killed for the campaigns they engage in," warns the humanitarian organization in a report published on International Women's Rights Day today.

According to the document "Challenging Power, Combating Discrimination: A Call to Action to Recognize and Protect Women Human Rights Defenders", governments are failing in their obligation to protect these activists, despite having signed several commitments to do so, including a United Nations resolution six years ago to increase its protection.

Many of these activists often face "a number of gender-specific attacks, including rape," because of their work in promoting women's rights, gender equality and sexuality, Amnesty International says.

"Women human rights defenders are attacked for who they are and what they do," criticizes Amnesty International Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo in the report.

"The risks are even greater for those facing forms of cross-discrimination: when you are a woman and [at the same time] you belong to a racial, indigenous, poor, lesbian, bisexual or transgender minority or if you are a sex worker you have to fight hard more so that your voice is heard by those in power, "he added.

Today's document denounces the existence of "demonization policies, sexual violence and defamation campaigns" and underlines that women human rights defenders "are fundamental to human progress".

These activists "fight for human rights and against patriarchy and racism while pushing for innovative reforms on many fronts," Amnesty International says.

For this reason, the organization calls on governments to fulfill their obligations and guarantee these activists freedom and security.

In the document, Amnesty International points the finger at countries such as Poland, Egypt, Italy or Bahrain and Mauritania.

"For example, in Poland, women human rights defenders who led major street protests against abortion restrictions faced attacks and documented violations of the rights of women and LGBTI people [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestite, Transgender and Transgender] reinforced by a climate of racism and anti-immigration sentiment ", says the organization.

Still in Europe, Amnesty International criticizes the campaign against the Italian captain of Sea-Watch 3 refugee rescue boat Carola Rackete.

"After rescuing migrants from the central Mediterranean in June 2019, Carola Rackete was repeatedly insulted by the Italian interior minister, who classified her as a pirate and criminal," the organization recalls in the report.

These insults, he said, were followed by "cruel attacks by others, which incited sexual violence against her, while hurting her gender and appearance."

Amnesty International has come up with other examples, such as Bahrain's human rights activist Ebtisam El-Saegh, who in 2017 was sexually assaulted and kicked in the stomach and forced to stand for seven hours where you were being interrogated.

In Egypt, Malak al-Kashef, a 19-year-old transgender activist, was arrested in March 2019 for her involvement in peaceful protests in Cairo.

Malak al-Kashef "faced false allegations that he was linked to and aiding a terrorist organization" and while in detention was subjected to forced anal examination and other forms of sexual assault.

Although she was in the process of gender affirmation, Malak was placed in a men's detention center, which exposed her to a greater risk of sexual violence.

Another example happened in Mauritania, where activist Mekfoula Brahim was removed from her religious group after campaigning to end female genital mutilation.

The "offense" exposed Mekfoula Brahim to the risk of being prosecuted and sentenced to death, warns Amnesty International.

In the report, Amnesty International calls on states to "investigate attacks on human rights activists" and calls on governments to "hold them accountable".

"States should also educate the public about the right of people to defend all human rights and provide funding and protection mechanisms," the organization stresses.

"Wheels with power must recognize women human rights defenders as key factors of change to ensure justice, equality, peace and sustainable development," said Kumi Naidoo.

"These women should be honored and protected for the courageous work they do to improve our lives, and especially those of the most marginalized communities," he said.

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