Women human rights defenders under attack

Posted on December 10, 2009.

Let’s do a quick review of women and violence in the news in the last weeks.

What's in the news on Human Rights Day?

What's in the news on Human Rights Day?

Why today? Because it’s the last of the 16 Days against Violence against Women, arguably the best known global campaign of the women’s movement, and also Human Rights Day.

Today, Sahrawi activist Aminatou Haidar starts her fourth week of hunger strike at Lanzarote airport in the Canary Islands. She is so weak she has to be transported to court by wheelchair or stretcher. Last week, the head of UNHCR called on Spain and Morocco to resolve her issue on humanitarian grounds.

The award-winning Haidar is known as the Sahrawi Gandhi for her non-violent protests for the independence of her desert country, the Western Sahara, ruled by Morocco since 1975. 

In November, the Moroccan government unlawfully withdrew her passport and deported her when Haidar returned from receiving the prestigious Civil Courage Prize in New York. In 2008 she received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award.

On the other side of the world, in the Philippines, on 23 November, the eve of 16 Days, 22 women were massacred along with 35 men. The women were raped, sexually mutilated and shot in their private parts. The mass murder was instigated by a local politician-warlord and carried out by his militia. Among the victims were the wife and sister of a rival political candidate and two women lawyers who worked for him.

Believing that the Muslim tradition of respecting women would protect them from clan violence, the group was going to file papers for the candidate, along with a group of journalists. Among the 57 killed were 30 thirty media people, journalists, technicians and drivers. This is the largest single killing of journalists in history.

Earlier in November, Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, along with two less well-known bloggers, a woman and a man, were detained and beaten up by authorities in Havana. They were on their way to a peaceful march.

Is this cause for despair? No. These examples of violence unleashed against women in politics and media only reaffirms our commitment to denounce these crimes and seek justice.

The media now has a better tool to do this job. On 25 November, IPS presented its new handbook on reporting on women and violence. User-friendly, with an agile layout, it covers a wide spectrum of issues, from cyberstalking to trafficking, with story examples, discussion points, fact checks and additional resources. Download it here.

Do it now!

Do it now! No time to lose!

Email your support for Aminatou here or at:  todosconaminatou@gmail.com

And do whatever you can do to end violence against women and protect human rights defenders wherever you are.