Our Call to the Next Honduran President

Supporters of Honduran presidential candidate for the LIBRE party, Xiomara Castro hold flags and a sign reading "We demand justice. Nobody stops the people” (Photo Credit: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images).

Supporters of Honduran presidential candidate for the LIBRE party, Xiomara Castro hold flags and a sign reading “We demand justice. Nobody stops the people” (Photo Credit: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images).

By Stacy Suh, Member Women’s Rights Coordination Group

As I write, the outcome of the November 24 presidential elections in Honduras is still being contested. There were eight candidates to the presidency, out of which two have been expressing concerns on the official results provided by the Electoral Tribunal and respective complains have been filed. Regardless of the eventual outcome of these legal challenges, Amnesty International is still calling upon the next president to commit to protecting human rights, as outlined in an open letter to all candidates.


Little Known Link Between Militarism and Violence Against Women

Faced with a spike in sexual violence against female protesters, Egyptian women are overcoming stigma and recounting painful testimonies to force silent authorities and a reticent society to confront “sexual terrorism” (Photo Credit: Mahmud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images).

Faced with a spike in sexual violence against female protesters, Egyptian women are overcoming stigma and recounting painful testimonies to force silent authorities and a reticent society to confront “sexual terrorism” (Photo Credit: Mahmud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images).

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

It took Miriam Isaura López Vargas several weeks to piece together what happened to her after she was tortured and raped by Mexican soldiers. On February 2, 2011, the 30-year-old mother of four had just dropped three of her children at school in the city of Ensenada, in northern Mexico, when two men wearing balaclavas forced her into a white van and took her away.

“They tortured me. They repeatedly put wet cloth over my face and poured water over it so I couldn’t breathe. They gave me electric shocks,” she explained.


Women Need a Strong Arms Trade Treaty

The following post is by Alice Dahle, a member of Amnesty International USA’s Women’s Human Rights Co-group.

In an interview with an Amnesty International researcher last year, a female survivor of armed violence in the Cote d’Ivoire told her story.

“On Saturday [18 December 2010] they took me and five other women into a room. It was in the morning. There were three of them. They told us to undress. I refused. One of them hit me with his knife. I told him it was not human. He said: ‘We will see about that’. He took his gun out and I was obliged to yield.”

The threat from a knife might have been challenged, but the use of a firearm made the situation non-negotiable and prevented five women from protecting themselves.

Tragically, this is not an isolated case. It could also be taking place in Syria or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While the great majority of gun owners around the world are men, women and girls are disproportionately affected by gun violence. All too often, having a gun empowers and emboldens the individual holding the weapon to take advantage of those perceived as easy targets. Discrimination against women and girls, and their unequal status and power in many societies, make them more vulnerable and easy targets for an armed aggressor. Even when armed conflict is officially over, the culture of violence and the presence of surplus guns result in continued gender-based violence in homes and communities.


It’s Never Too Late for Justice: Standing with the Women of Indonesia

Indonesian laws need to be reformed to help overcome discriminatory practices © Amnesty International

For many of us, Indonesia may seem to be a country recovered. We may recall the conflicts in Aceh, Papua and Timor-Leste in the late 1990s, or even the violence that ravaged the country in 1965. We may think of it as a country split asunder into more peaceful parts, a region struck by a tsunami that showed its strength to recover, or the former temporary residence of President Barack Obama.

For many of us, Indonesia is a country on the other side of the planet, whose human rights challenges perhaps don’t make us sit up and take notice compared to the acute and current crises we hear flit through our TV news.


Violence Against Women in Post-Conflict

Today we conclude our 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence blog series. Over the campaign, we’ve explored militarism and gender violence as related to such issues as small arms proliferation; women’s human rights defenders; and the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. It is fitting that we close the campaign with a look at some of the enduring elements of gender violence that continue after peace is officially declared, as we look toward a new year that will hopefully bring peace, equality and justice for all to a world rocked by revolution and social change.

We have explored the brutal effects of war when it comes to violence against women in countries in active conflict such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Afghanistan and Iraq.  War brings with it a culture of violence that now claims more civilian victims than combatants, the majority of those women and children. Yet to assume that with the declaration of peace comes an immediate cessation of violence would be incorrect; for women, the militarization of gender relations that accompanies war often results in higher incidence of violence after conflict.


Sexual Violence Against Girls in Nicaragua Widespread

Rosmery, a young survivor of sexual violence at age 12, draws her hopes for the future represented by a tree which marks her past, present and future.

In Nicaragua, rape and sexual abuse are widespread, and the majority of the victims are young and female.  More than two thirds of all rapes reported between 1998 and 2008 were committed against girls under the age of 17, and nearly half of victims were under age 14.

Though there is overwhelming evidence of widespread sexual abuse in the country, and five UN expert committees have called on the government to address the issue of violence against women and girls, the Nicaraguan government is still failing to treat this human rights emergency with the urgency that it deserves.

Last week, Amnesty International published a report on sexual violence against girls in Nicaragua. The report highlights that information on preventing and responding to abuse for those at risk or suffering from sexual violence is difficult, if not impossible to find, leaving many girls trapped in abusive situations with no clear escape.  Further, the stigma associated with sexual crimes means that it’s often the survivor – not the abuser – who is blamed, and young survivors of rape or sexual abuse get little to no government support to rebuild their lives.


Real men are not afraid of women's empowerment!

As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put it “Violence against women and girls will not be eradicated until all of us – men and boys- refuse to tolerate it”. Globally, men are taking a stand. Kenya’s Men for Gender Equality Now (MENGEN), a member of the Say NO – UNiTE to End Violence Against Women global coalition, stands out as an inspiring organization.  Since 2001, MENGEN has worked to involve men in the struggle against gender-based violence and gender-inequality. To date, the organization has reached thousands of men and women in 21 constituencies across Kenya, championing equality and rejecting violence against women.

During the 2009 global 16 Days of activism against gender violence campaign, MENGEN spearheaded the Men’s Traveling Conference, recruiting male role models across Kenya to oppose violence and to start MENGEN branches in their communities. MENGEN mobilized men and women to sign commitment forms pledging their allegiance to fight gender-based violence; despite meeting heavy resistance in some towns, several police offices and provincial administrators pledged their support.

Activists march against gender violence in Kigali, Rwanda.

Activists march against gender violence in Kigali, Rwanda.

On November 25th, the first day of the 16 Days campaign, Malawi Minister for Gender, Children and Community Development, Hon. Patricia Kaliati, launched the official inauguration of MENGEN in Malawi with a powerful statement, “Real Men are not afraid of women’s empowerment.”

Amnesty International USA could not agree more!


Honor Women's Rights Defenders by calling for a strong UN agency for Women

Gertrude Hambira, Zimbabwe. (c) Amnesty International

Gertrude Hambira, Zimbabwe. (c) Amnesty International

Amnesty International spoke to three inspiring women’s rights activists about the challenges they face in their work, the personal risks they endure and their motivation to continue their struggle.  Today, on World Human Rights Day, we should take a moment to recognize the work done by Gertrude Hambira from Zimbabwe, Zebo Sharifova from Tajikistan and Aminatou Haidar from Western Sahara, and countless women like them around the world, to defend human rights.

Despite threats and physical abuse women’s human rights defenders strive to improve women’s lives and promote human rights.  However, all too often, their work is constrained by limited resources and limited commitment to promoting women’s rights from their governments.

The United Nations is a galvanizing force in setting new international standards and commitments to protect and promote women’s human rights.  The UN needs the strength and the capacity to ensure that these commitments are fulfilled.  Amnesty is calling on the President of the General Assembly to make the United Nations more effective in realizing women’s rights by creating a strong, UN agency for women.  Today, on the final day of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and World Human Rights Day, take action to increase the UN’s effectiveness in realizing women’s human rights and sign the petition calling for a strong UN agency for women. Take action today in honor of Gertrude, Zebo and Aminatou.