Peace in the Home and Peace in the World: Help End Violence Against Women!

By Tarah Demant, Co-Chair of Amnesty International USA Women’s Rights Co-Group

A life free from violence is a fundamental human right, yet daily, women and girls are targeted specifically because of their sex or gender, and violence in communities often affects women disproportionately. Violence against women is a global epidemic; no country or community is immune.

Violence against women is used as a tool of discrimination, control, and intimidation, and it restricts women’s choices and increases their vulnerability to further injustices. 1 in 3 women will be raped, beaten, or abused in her lifetime, yet violence against women affects us all. Consider the following cases:

  • In Sudan, women can be can be stopped by the police, arrested, jailed, and even sentenced to public flogging for nothing more than wearing pants or leaving her hair uncovered.
  • In Egypt, women protesters have faced harassment and assault while Egypt’s political leaders have remained silence about the rampant sexual violence and discrimination.
  • In Syria, more than 2 million people have fled the armed crisis, and now tens of thousands of women and girl refugees in Jordan risk further violence simply because they have no safe access to a toilet.
  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo, often ranked the worst place in the world to be a woman, women human rights defenders provide grassroots assistance to civilians, yet they themselves face intimidation, attack, rape, and sexual violence for their efforts.
  • In Bangladesh, women human rights defenders work for the rights of indigenous people throughout the country, yet 17 years after the disappearance of a high-profile Pahari activist, her family and community still waits for justice.
  • In Honduras, women human rights defenders are threatened with sexual violence for championing human rights throughout the country.
  • In Mexico, Miriam López Vargas and hundreds of other women wait for justice after torture and rape by Mexican soldiers.

What these cases have in common is a global culture of discrimination and violence against women as well as impunity for those who commit gender-based violence. And this year’s theme: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women highlights the relationship between heightened militarism and communal and interpersonal violence.

Despite a culture of violence and discrimination women around the world are raising their voices against violence and discrimination, demanding their basic human rights, and standing against intimidation and fear. Today, what unites women internationally is their vulnerability to the denial and violation of their fundamental human rights, and their dedicated efforts to claim those rights.

You can join them this 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence as we join activists worldwide from Nov. 25 – Dec. 10 to help end violence against women. This year, we’re highlighting the seven cases above – in each instance, you can learn more, take action, and stand with women demanding their rights!

Imagine a world without violence against women. Join us this 16 Days to make that vision a reality.

Will Sunday’s Presidential Elections Be a Victory for Human Rights in Honduras?

“The human rights situation in Honduras seems to deteriorate every day. It looks like no one is safe from the widespread violence and insecurity. Those defending human rights are particularly exposed to abuses and attacks.
-Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International’s Americas Deputy Program Director.

On Sunday, November 24, Hondurans will vote for their next president. Amnesty International recognizes this as an historic opportunity to improve human rights in the Central American nation. AI has sent an open letter to all of the candidates outlining specific actions that the next president must take in the areas of

  • Human Rights Defenders
  • Public Security
  • Impunity
  • Individuals & Communities at Risk (Indigenous, Garífuna, Campesinos, Women, & LGBTI)

Amnesty is very concerned about the safety of human rights defenders and journalists during and immediately after the elections. Please send a message to President Lobo that he must guarantee the protection of these individuals before, during, and after Sunday’s elections. We suggest you also send President the following tweets in English and Spanish:

  • .@PEPE_LOBO Will you publicly commit to zero tolerance of attacks against #humanrights defenders & journalists during #Honduras elections?
  •  .@PEPE_LOBO ¿Se comprometerá a cero tolerancia de ataques contra periodistas y defensoras/es de #DDHH durante #EleccionesHonduras?

Please also tweet the presidential candidates to tell them to protect human rights:

  • .@andrespavon_ @VilledaMauricio Will you commit to protect #humanrights defenders & journalists? #EleccionesHonduras
  • .@JuanOrlandoH @XiomaraCastroZ Will you commit to protect #humanrights defenders & journalists? #EleccionesHonduras
  • .@SalvadorNasrala @RomeoVasquezV @OrleSols @Pinusd_HN Will you commit to protect #humanrights defenders and journalists? #EleccionesHonduras

Why Are Human Rights Defenders Still Under Attack in El Salvador?

A Salvadorian mother lifts a portrait of her son near the Presidential House as part of a rally of relatives who lost their children during military operations in the last civil war (1980-1992) in San Salvador, El Salvador. NGO Pro-Busqueda has been working in the search of about 473 missing children (Photo Credit: Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images).

A Salvadorian mother lifts a portrait of her son near the Presidential House as part of a rally of relatives who lost their children during military operations in the last civil war (1980-1992) in San Salvador, El Salvador (Photo Credit: Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images).

The recent attack on the human rights defenders (HRDs) of Pro-Búsqueda brings back painful memories of wartime abuses in El Salvador.

November 16 marked the 24th anniversary of the murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her teenage daughter at the Central American University (UCA) in 1989. This brutal attack shocked the world, creating pressure for the Salvadoran government to finally negotiate an end to the war.

Just two days before this anniversary, however, Salvadorans were given a horrible reminder of the type of wartime atrocities that they had hoped were behind them.


This is How You Fight Drones

Amnesty USA's Game of Drones action on the University of Texas- Austin campus.

Amnesty USA’s Game of Drones action on the University of Texas- Austin campus.

This post is part of a series written by Amnesty USA’s National Youth Program Coordinator Kalaya’an Mendoza from the road of the Game of Drones tour.Follow the tour on Tumblr and take action to prevent extrajudicial killings with drones and other weapons.

When I shut the classroom door, the only sound left was the buzzing of the dim fluorescent lights overhead. We could no longer hear the theater students practicing their monologues in the hallway, or the voices of the Amnesty members in the classroom next door frantically flipping through the report on drones in Pakistan as they made signs for our action the next day. “You’re sure you have time for this?” I asked Sahare, as I slid into the desk and took out my phone to record her message.

“Yes, of course,” Sahare said. Her sad eyes held mine, unwavering. “I need to do this as a tribute to my grandmother. Without her inspiration, I wouldn’t be here.”


Who Should Have Custody of the Testimony of El Salvador’s Victims?

larry blog

Since its founding in 1982, Salvadoran human rights victims, their families, and other witnesses have trusted their testimony to Tutela Legal, the human rights office of the Catholic Church’s Archdiocese in El Salvador. They had confidence that Church leaders such as Archbishop Rivera y Damas (who replaced Oscar Romero after his assassination in 1980) and María Julía Hernández (the long-time head of Tutela Legal) would preserve the crucial evidence they provided so that one day the criminals who committed wartime atrocities could be brought to justice. They also felt safe turning to Tutela Legal, believing that their testimony would remain confidential.

On September 30, those Salvadorans who had confided in Tutela Legal were shocked to learn that Archbishop Escobar Alas had disbanded the organization, locking the doors and dismissing the staff without prior notice. Since then, he has changed his explanation for doing so several times – but not provided any evidence to support any of his reasons.


Violence Against Women: When Will Nicaragua Wake Up?

There were over 32,000 complaints of domestic violence and sexual abuse in Nicaragua in 2012 (Photo Credit: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images).

There were over 32,000 complaints of domestic violence and sexual abuse in Nicaragua in 2012 (Photo Credit: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images).

By Liza Konczal, Amnesty USA’s Nicaragua Country Specialist

Less than 2 years after passing a law against violence against women (Law 779), the National Assembly of Nicaragua has weakened the protection it offers.

Near the end of September 2013, the Assembly voted to retract a part of the law that bans mediation in abuse cases. Women’s organizations in Nicaragua had worked arduously to reject mediation in the law, because the result could be re-victimization. Survivors of domestic abuse require protection of the law, not a chance to ‘work it out’ with their abusers.


Many Voices, One Fight: Building the Movement to Ending Obama’s Game of Drones

Drone model used for Amnesty's "Game of Drones" tour (Photo Credit: Amnesty International USA).

Drone model used for Amnesty’s “Game of Drones” tour (Photo Credit: Amnesty International USA).

By Kalaya’an Mendoza, Amnesty USA’s National Youth Program Coordinator

As I write these words, the sun is just starting to come up on a crisp, clear Vermont day. It will warm up later, but the chill in the air and the turning leaves tell me one thing is sure: winter is coming.

As the seasons change, another year of the U.S. government’s shadowy ‘global war’ continues. The Obama Administration’s drone policy remains shrouded in secrecy despite serious allegations of unlawful killings. Amid raids and strikes, untold many have been killed and injured, and countless other lives remain perilously in the balance as President Obama plays the deadliest of games: the Game of Drones.

This fall, we’re standing up and saying this has got to end now. I’m taking the fight to campuses across the country, meeting people in classrooms and common rooms to recruit them into a growing movement calling on President Obama to release the names of victims of drone strikes, and end this Game of Drones!