About Lyric Thompson

Lyric Thompson is a member of Amnesty International USA's Women's Human Rights Coordination Group, an expert group of volunteers who support the organization's efforts to promote and defend women's human rights. Outside of her work with Amnesty USA, Lyric is a writer and advocate on global women's issues. She has worked for women's rights with a variety of organizations, including the International Center for Research on Women, the U.S. Institute of Peace, Women for Women International and TrustLaw Women, a project of the Thomson-Reuters Foundation.
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Tell the United Nations: Protect #MyBodyMyRights!


I’ve just come from opening week at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), when thousands of women’s rights activists and member state delegations descend on New York to review the current state of affairs for women and girls globally and recommend actions states can take to advance gender equality and promote female empowerment.

Many of the events this week are calling attention to sexual and reproductive rights as a primary barrier to development progress and the enjoyment of rights and dignity for all. The priority theme for the CSW this year is a review of progress for women and girls under the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).


This Mother’s Day, It Was Motherhood, Not Rape, That Made Congo the Worst Place to Be a Woman

Save the Children's "State of the World's Mothers" report has named the Democratic Republic of Congo as the world's worst place to be a mother (Photo Credit: Leon Sadiki/City Press/Gallo Images/Getty Images).

Save the Children’s “State of the World’s Mothers” report has named the Democratic Republic of Congo as the world’s worst place to be a mother (Photo Credit: Leon Sadiki/City Press/Gallo Images/Getty Images).

In honor of Mother’s Day, Save the Children released its annual “State of the World’s Mothers” report. I was saddened, but not surprised to see the Democratic Republic of Congo is the worst place to be a mother.

Severe violations of women’s human rights in Congo are, unfortunately, a perennial subject of attention for me and numerous other rights activists. Typically those violations are associated with the long and bloody conflict that has spanned the country and concentrated in its most recent stages in the East.

Indeed, DRC has been plagued by almost two decades of conflict resulting in the suffering and death of millions of men, women and children. Most chillingly, the Congo conflict has become synonymous with rape and other forms of sexual violence, which are committed with impunity by security forces, including the armed forces of the DRC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, FARDC), and other armed groups. For this reason, it was ranked the worst place to be a woman by the United Nations just last year.


Another Year Lost for the Lives and Dignity of Congo’s Women

Rape survivors awaiting surgery, Panzi hospital, Bukavu, South-Kivu province. Copyright Amnesty International

Three years ago when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took the unprecedented step of travelling to the Eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to meet with rape survivors of the country’s brutal conflict, I was elated and hopeful. Elated because Secretary Clinton was doing something that had never been done before—sending the message that sexual violence is just as high on America’s foreign policy agenda as trade or traditional capital-to-capital diplomacy, and that the dignity and needs of survivors are a particular priority. Hopeful because I thought it meant perhaps three years later we would see some real change for women in that unending war.

I was wrong.

Tens of thousands of civilians have this very week been displaced following the fall of Goma, a city in Congo’s war-torn east, to the armed group M23, worsening an already dire human rights situation.  Since only April of this year, fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 armed group has displaced 226,000 people in North Kivu province, and 60,000 refugees have fled to Uganda and Rwanda. As with the many other chapters in what’s become known as Africa’s world war, sexual violence has been a trademark of the recent fighting. Amnesty International has documented numerous crimes under international law and other human rights violations committed in the course of fighting between M23 and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) army in recent months.


A Firsthand Account of Ongoing Women’s Crisis in Colombia

Stop Violence Against Women in Colombia

Sign reading “No more violence against women” at a 2010 demonstration in Medellin, Colombia. ©AFP/Getty Images

When I woke last Friday, it was to the sound of a woman’s screams in the street. I looked out the window and saw a woman being attacked by a male, and she was screaming for the police. My husband and I called the police. They were on the scene in 5 minutes. The man fled and together with the police we talked the woman through the attack, the police filed a report, and we tried to help the woman recover her lost cell phone and her nerves.

From the very beginning, the day was a stark reminder about the global scourge of violence against women, and about the duty of the state to hold those crimes to account.


Colombia: Women’s Bodies Shouldn’t Be a War Strategy

Stop Violence Against Women in Colombia

Sign reading “No more violence against women” at a 2010 demonstration in Medellin, Colombia. (RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)

In Colombia two women are raped every hour.  This, according the Instituto Nacional de Medicine Legal y Ciencias Dorenses (National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences of Colombia), is the reality facing Colombian women, meaning that 17,935 women are raped every year. The country’s 45-year-old internal armed conflict has created a dire human rights situation. Women, especially, are caught in the middle: their bodies are used as a strategy to defeat the enemy, as a method of retaliation, as a means of gaining land, or simply to pleasure the different combatants.

All parties in conflict, including the Colombian Army, have used women’s bodies as their commodities. They do it because they know they can get away with it. The impunity for sexual violence in Colombia is striking: according to Colombia’s Semana newspaper, in 2009 only 183 cases of sexual abuse were being investigated.


The Worst Place to Be a Woman in the G20

Indian women protest

According to TrustLaw's latest poll, India is the worst place to be a woman among G20 states (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)

This week the G20, or the group of the world’s major economies, is convening in Mexico to consider progress and define new commitments toward economic growth and a shared agenda for the world’s wealthiest nations.

Ahead of the meetings, I participated in an expert poll conducted by TrustLaw Women, a project of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, to determine which G20 countries are the best and worst for women.

Our analysis–that reflects the views of 370 gender specialists from five continents and most of the G20 nations–found Canada to be the best G20 country for women. The worst? Perhaps a surprise: Not Saudi Arabia, but India.


Mumbai’s Urban Slums: Ground Zero for Human Dignity

Mumbai slum residents protest the destruction of their homes.

Mumbai slum residents protest the destruction of their homes by multi-national corporations. PHOTO: RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images

I’ve spent the past two weeks working with a number of NGOs focused on women’s human rights in the urban slums surrounding Mumbai. These communities are a ground zero for human dignity, where basic needs are not met and human rights are routinely crushed by poverty and the pace of urbanization.

The underworld I traverse each day exists within a global financial capital, a land of five-star hotels and luxury cars. The stark contrast illustrates the urgency of putting human dignity at the center of the dialogue about social change in an increasingly urbanized and inequitable landscape. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

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.


Why The Nobel Prize Isn’t Just About Women’s Rights

Yemen's Arab Spring activist Tawakkul Karman, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Liberian 'peace warrior' Leymah Gbowee, winners of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Today the Nobel Committee announced that it is awarding its Peace Prize to three women: Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkul Karman, and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

While the fact that the prize is being awarded to three women is important, it is not the most important symbol of what today’s announcement represents. Sure, the number of women who have been honored in the prize’s history (twelve until today) pales in comparison to the number of men (eighty-five), and that disparity should be addressed.

But focusing exclusively on the numbers game as we congratulate Gbowee, Karman and Sirleaf misses the point entirely: these women are not honored today because they are women. They are honored for what their work represents in promoting a more peaceful, just world. Doing so as women, they are both at unique risk and offer unique solutions—but their work makes the world a better place for all.


No Justice for Women in DRC

Rape survivors gather to meet Amnesty International mission delegates, Kindu, Maniema province.

Two years ago, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the unprecedented step of extending a diplomatic visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in order to travel across the country and meet directly with rape survivors in the country’s war-torn eastern region.

The Secretary heard brutal, firsthand accounts of targeted sexual violence women had suffered as part of a systematic campaign by armed groups intended to terrorize civilians and maintain control.