Amnesty highlights role of women human rights defenders

3 August 2019

According to a report published recently by Amnesty International (AI), there are 15 documented cases of Peruvian women human rights defenders whose rights have been abused between 2017 and 2018.

The report, entitled “Valiente: Mujeres Defensoras de Derechos Humanos”, highlights the role women human rights defenders play in promoting and protecting human rights and the specific risks they face because of their gender.

It tells the stories of women defenders from across the world, what they do and what they face because of their work, claiming that “Any part of life can be a reason to fight. Their sexuality and reproduction, as well as being free to decide what to do with their own bodies. They fight for the respect of sexual orientation and gender identity, promoting LGBTI rights …”.

But their fight is not limited to these rights; they also defend their rights against economic inequality and against social exclusion, and campaign for better health care, education, access to justice, and for the preservation of the environment, territory and livelihoods.

The cases covered in the report are varied: there are those that highlight the struggle of Indigenous women fighting for their land and for the protection of the environment, such Berta Cáceres (in Honduras), Máxima Acuña (in Cajamarca, Peru), and Flor de María Paraná (in Loreto, Peru).

Others highlight the role women play in the defence of sexual and reproductive rights and LGBTI rights in Peru, such as the case of Sofía Carrillo, a journalist and activist promoting sexual and reproductive rights, and Leyla Huerta, a trans activist and director of Proyecto Féminas.

During the report´s presentation in Lima, Marina Navarro, executive director of AI in Peru, said: “It is necessary to have a differentiated protection mechanism because it is important that women have an active role in deciding what type of protection they need”.

She referred to the recently approved Protocol for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, published in May, and recommended that any protection mechanism take into account the types of threat and the risks that women face. “[Women defenders] face more attacks towards their sexuality, [geared] towards the role attributed to them by a patriarchal society, towards their family”, Navarro explained.

Leyla Huerta, also present at the conference, talked about her experience: “As trans women we are the most stigmatised group of all women. The law on gender equality is a step forward, but it is just the beginning”, she said.

Melania Canales, president of the Organización Nacional de Mujeres Indígenas y Amazónicas del Perú (Onamiap), described the situation facing indigenous and peasant women defending their territory during social conflicts. “Our fight is within and outside the organisation”, she explained referring to the problems that women face in their communities with their male counterparts, who discriminate against them, especially at times of decision making in communal assemblies.

According to the director of justice and human rights from the Ministry of Justice, Edgar Rodríguez, one of the current challenges is the lack of official data available on cases of threatening behaviour, harassment and attacks against HRDs. The National Human Rights Plan and the Protocol for Protection of HRDs include a commitment to elaborate a registry that includes all situations of risk, identified as a first step to establishing concrete measures to implement effective protection as well as pre-emptive measures to tackle the roots of the problem.

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