Amnesty: women at the forefront of fight for human rights

Amnesty International: women at the front line of struggle for human rights


The international human rights organisation Amnesty International has produced an almanac entitled ‘Rights Today’ in place of its annual lecture on human rights.

The almanac publishes the conclusions of a study on the human rights situation in seven regions of the world. Amnesty says that 2018 was a year ‘marked by women’s resistance’. The organisation argues that governments continue to put the rights of women a rung below other rights and freedoms.

‘In 2018, women worldwide were at the front line of the struggle for human rights. In India and South Africa, thousands took to the streets to protest endemic sexual violence. In Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively, women activists risked arrest to resist the driving ban and forced hijab. In Argentina, Ireland and Poland, demonstrators rallied in vast numbers to demand an end to oppressive abortion laws. In the USA, Europe and Japan, millions joined the second #MeToo-led women’s march to demand an end to misogyny and abuse. In north-eastern Nigeria, several thousand displaced women have mobilised to demand justice ‘for the violence inflicted on them by Boko Haram fighters and the security forces,’ Amnesty’s Secretary General, Kumi Naidoo, says.

Today, the defence of women’s rights is finding resonance in Russia, argues Natalia Zviagina, Director of Amnesty International’s Office in Moscow. In particular, Russian society is beginning to articulate demands for a review of state policy on domestic violence. ‘People who were actively advocating for the decriminalisation of some forms of domestic violence have come round to the view that this is not a constructive way forward,’ Zviagina said.  In December 2018, the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, Tatiana Moskalkova, spoke out against the law on decriminalising domestic violence and declared that it had been a mistake. She called for a law against violence within the family to be passed, and for the European Convention ‘On preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence’ to be ratified.

Human rights activists say that, in 2019, Amnesty International will campaign to revoke criminal responsibility for abortion, in countries where this is categorised as a crime.

A section of the Amnesty almanac is devoted to the position of refugees. It is pointed out that the UN Global Compact on Refugees, finalised in July 2018, has had no effect on the situation of 25 million refugees. ‘The Compact was conceived as a complex, comprehensive set of recommendations, but all provisions relating to concrete obligations, demands and actions were struck out in the early stages of discussion. The initial draft lacked virtually any commitment in the area of human rights and refugee law,’ the almanac states.

The almanac also reports on the conflict in Yemen, in which 17,000 civilians were killed or wounded; the continuing battle for human rights in Africa; the position of Middle-Eastern and North African human rights activists; and the human rights crisis in Europe and Central Asia.  Amnesty argues that in countries like Kazakhstan, Russia and Tadzhikistan, there are continuing attacks on freedom of expression on the web, while peaceful protests encounter restrictions and excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies.

‘In Russia, where street protests are becoming more frequent, harsh responses from the police have led to mass arrests. Children are detained for attending peaceful demonstrations and journalists are persecuted for their coverage of protests. The number of court cases initiated for posting or reposting material on the Internet is unprecedented,’ the almanac states.

In last year’s lecture on human rights worldwide, Amnesty said that the attack on values lying at the core of fundamental human rights had reached colossal proportions. The organisation called for people to refuse to ‘recognise the rhetoric of disengagement and instead construct a culture of solidarity’ and affirm their adherence to human rights as a principle.



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