It hasn’t always, but when I met my spouse, I knew that this was the path I hoped we’d walk together. Things worked out, and despite a 30-year age difference and the odd gender peculiarity, we married in Te Whare Karakia o Hato Pateriki raua o Hato Hohepa – otherwise known as St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral – in central Auckland.
We were able to marry because my spouse Cushla is a natal female and I was born biologically a male, even though I identify as female and had, by that time, already begun my gender transition.
We were legally able to marry because my birth certificate said I was male even though I’m not and the church treated us as they would any other heterosexual couple, despite knowing from day one of my intention to transition. This was in 2001 and Marriage Equality was no more than a twinkle in the eye of New Zealand society – and possibly not even that.
Join Amnesty International USA and call on the Philippine government to expedite the investigation and resolve the disappearance of activist James Balao (Photo Credit: Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images).
April 19, 2013 marks the 52nd birthday, of indigenous people’s activist James Balao. James is just one of at least 200 to have disappeared in the Philippines over the past decade. James has not been seen or heard from since he disappeared from his hometown on September 17, 2008 when he was taken by armed men, claiming to be law enforcers.
James is a part of the Igorot ethnic group, an indigenous minority from the Cordillera region in the northern Philippines. He is a founding member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), a grassroots organization advocating for the rights of indigenous people. The military has vilified the CPA as a communist organization, and labeled James a communist.
The CPA feels James may have disappeared as a result of the government’s anti-terrorism measures (Operation Plan Bantay Laya or Freedom Watch), which has unfairly targeted legitimate organizations that resulted to a series of extrajudicial killings, torture and disappearances throughout the country.
Protesters at a demonstration outside the Supreme Court of Justice in San Salvador. The sign reads, “If Beatriz were your daughter, would it be illegal to save her life?”(Photo Credit: Courtesy of Agrupación Ciudadana por la despenalización del aborto Terapéutico, Ético y Eugénesico).
Officially, El Salvador does not have capital punishment. The result will be the same, however, for “Beatriz,” a 22-year-old whose “crime” consists of needing an abortion to save her life. Abortion is illegal in El Salvador law under all circumstances, including rape, incest, and maternal health. Beatriz has a history of lupus, kidney problems, and other health conditions that her doctors have indicated place her at high-risk for pregnancy-related death. She is currently four and a half months pregnant. Preventing her from receiving an abortion is therefore comparable to a death sentence. This, in turn, will leave her one-year-old son motherless.
But surely, you may think, some Salvadoran doctor will ignore the law for the higher goal of saving this woman’s life. In November, I posted an account of another Salvadoran woman, “Mery,” who was turned in to the police by her own doctors after suffering complications from a clandestine abortion. While this may appear shocking to readers in the United States, Salvadoran law requires doctors to do so. “Beatriz” and her doctors have to worry that someone will turn them in if they proceed without explicit government authorization.
Even though most of the world has turned its back on the death penalty, some countries continue to impose capital punishment for acts like having consensual sexual relations outside marriage, opposing the government, offending religion and even drinking alcohol.
This is despite international law barring states from handing out death sentences for any of these crimes.
Here’s a list of some “crimes” that, in some parts of the world, can get you killed.
Iran’s Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery (Photo Credit: Etienne Laurent/AFP/Getty Images).
1. Consensual Sexual Relations Outside Marriage
In Sudan, two women, Intisar Sharif Abdallah and Layla Ibrahim Issa Jumul, were sentenced to death by stoning on charges of “adultery while married” in separate cases in May and July 2012. In both cases, the women were sentenced after unfair trials involving forced “confessions.” The sentences were subsequently overturned on appeal, and both women were released.
In Iran at least 10 individuals, mainly women, remain on death row having been sentenced to stoning for the crime of “adultery while married.”
The state of Delaware is known as the “Small Wonder”, but it has a surprisingly large death row. With 17 men (10 of them African American) facing execution, Delaware’s death row is more than twice as big as Virginia’s, and more than 3 times the size of Maryland’s. And Delaware has the third highest per capita execution rate of any state in the U.S. (behind Oklahoma and Texas).
But now, a bill making its way through the state legislature may mean than no one else will be sent to Delaware’s death row. A death penalty repeal bill has already cleared the Delaware Senate, and will be taken up by the House on April 24.
By Samir Goswami, Director of Amnesty International USA’s Individuals & Communities at Risk Campaign
Last week, we issued an Urgent Action to the disturbing news that Saudi Arabian national Abdullah al-Qahtani was at imminent risk of execution.
Abdullah was convicted of robbery and murder under Iraq’s Anti-Terrorism Law. While in custody, he was viciously beaten, burned and asphyxiated into “confessing” to being a member of al-Qaida. Four of Abdullah’s six co-defendants were executed last week and for a time, it seemed as though Abdullah was next.
But then, an amazing thing happened. We emailed a petition out to our Amnesty members and within 24 hours, received over 30,000 signatures.
Abdullah is still alive and pressure from activists like you likely helped spare his life. Today, Abdullah’s petition has over 40,000 signatures. But make no mistake – his execution is imminent. Abdullah’s attorney urges continued vigilance:
Amnesty International has issued its report on the results of the 2012 Letter Writing Marathon, and the Central America CoGroup would like to thank everyone who helped make it a success! 500,000 people across 77 countries took almost 2 million actions on 12 cases. Three of the cases featured groups and individuals in Guatemala and Honduras.
Back in January, I wrote a blog entry asking you to write letters to Guatemalan authorities urging them to protect Rosa Franco, a mother who has faced numerous death threats during her 11-year struggle for justice in the murder of her daughter, Maria Isabel. In response to all of the letters she received from activists around the world, Guatemalan Vice President Roxana Baldetti made a public commitment to support the investigation of this case. She also pledged to take further action on the broader issue of the widespread violence against women in her nation.
U.S. Army private first class Bradley Manning (Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images).
By Justin Mazzola, Amnesty International Researcher
Today I am going to observe the pre-trial hearings in US v. Manningthat are taking place at Fort Meade, Maryland this week. Bradley Manning is a 25-year-old Private First Class in the United States Army who was arrested in May 2010 while stationed with the US army in Iraq. He has been in US military custody since his arrest. Manning was charged with 22 counts of misconduct – the most serious of which is “aiding the enemy”- connected to the release of various US Military videos, intelligence reports on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and State Department diplomatic cables on the website Wikileaks.
We understand that his conditions improved considerably after he was transferred to a medium security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in late April 2011. Instead of being isolated, Bradley Manning is allowed to interact with other detainees, receive approved visitors, as well as receive mail from anyone while detained at Fort Leavenworth.
Abdullah al-Qahtani, a Saudi Arabian national, faces imminent execution in Iraq - a sentence based on “confessions” he says were false and obtained through torture. His story is a perfect illustration of why the death penalty is the ultimate violation of human rights; how ceding to the state the power to kill prisoners is connected to unfair trials, torture, and other abuses.
As Amnesty International’s survey of the death penalty worldwide in 2012 reports, Saudi Arabia and Iraq are both among the top executioners in the world, along with China, Iran, and, yes, the United States. The U.S. was once again the 5th most prolific executioner in 2012, and its death penalty continued to be plagued with bias and error and misconduct by the state (as has been exposed in the Reggie Clemons case).
With 15 executions in 2012, Texas would have ranked 8th in the world, between Sudan and Afghanistan.
Lamri Chirouf inspects an Israeli tear gas canister in Budrus cemetery (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).
By Lamri Chirouf, Amnesty International’s Delegate in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
Last month, we drove northwest from Ramallah to visit the small village of Budrus, which gained international attention a decade ago when residents started protesting against the fence/wall erected by Israel.
Regular protests there against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank continue, and clashes between village youths and members of the Israeli army have become a weekly, if not daily, occurrence. The main reason behind the protests is still the wall, described by the Israeli government as a security fence and by Budrus residents, and Palestinians throughout the West Bank, as an ‘apartheid wall’ and a way for the Israeli government to annex more Palestinian lands. The majority of the wall is located inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). In Budrus, it consists of rolls of barbed wire, multiple fences and sensors, and a road on the other side patrolled by Israeli military jeeps, all of which work to separate villagers from their farming lands.
There are no Israeli settlements or towns nearby, but Israeli troops regularly enter the village. The encounters between them and Budrus residents can be fatal.