Amnesty International supporters worldwide today join the 16 Days against Gender Violence campaign to challenge violence and discrimination against women and girls, including the denial of sexual and reproductive rights.
The campaign, which runs from 25 November to 10 December, aims to celebrate heroes – women human rights defenders – in every region of the world who fight discrimination and call on governments to prevent, investigate and prosecute discrimination and violence against women and girls.
“The root causes of gender-based violence and restrictions of women and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights are the same – systematic gender discrimination rooted in patriarchal structures that control women and girls’ choices and freedoms,” said Lucy Freeman, Director of Amnesty International’s Gender, Sexuality and Identity Programme.
“These discriminatory attitudes often cause the rights of women and girls to be undermined, for example in investigations into cases of rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, and are often used by perpetrators to justify these acts.”
Amnesty International is focusing on five regional actions in solidarity with the 16 Days of Activism:
A letter to the President demanding that the authorities implement a strategy to combat sexual violence and discrimination in full consultation with women’s rights groups. Today, women in Egypt face an epidemic of violence and discrimination, with more than 99 per cent saying they have experienced sexual harassment and 47 per cent some form of domestic violence.
A petition to the President, calling for the end to the total ban on abortion. In El Salvador it is a crime for women and girls to seek an abortion, or for anyone to help them have one. Women and girls found guilty of terminating their pregnancies face jail sentences of up to eight years, while those who have miscarriages may be charged with aggravated homicide and jailed for up to 50 years because they are suspected of having clandestine abortions.
A solidarity action with women and girl survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and women’s rights organizations providing support in the Maghreb countries (Algeria, Morocco and Western Sahara, and Tunisia) where the definition of rape as a crime falls short of international standards. Existing discriminatory laws cause further stigmatization of rape survivors and deter them from filing complaints for fear of being prosecuted if their allegation of rape is not believed.
Council of Europe
Letters to governments across Europe urging them to swiftly sign, ratify and implement the Istanbul Convention – the first European treaty specifically targeting violence against women and girls and domestic violence. Those countries that have already ratified the Convention should pledge the resources to ensure it is fully implemented.
As part of Amnesty International’s annual Letter Writing Marathon, from 3 to 17 December, letters will be sent to the national authorities expressing concern about the barriers faced by pregnant women accessing maternal health in rural areas – particularly the Mkhondo Local Municipality in Mpumalanga Province.
“Discriminatory gender stereotypes, and particularly efforts to control women and girls’ sexuality, are frequently used by perpetrators to justify acts of gender-based violence,” said Lucy Freeman.
“In solidarity with the 16 Days of Activism, we want to empower women and girls to claim and exercise their sexual and reproductive rights, live free from discrimination, coercion and violence, and without restraints imposed by society based on harmful stereotypes.”
Amnesty International is taking part in the 16 Days of Activism as part of its global My Body My Rights campaign, which aims to stop the control and criminalization of sexuality and reproduction by governments and others. Over 2014-2015, the campaign is working for change in people’s lives in a number of countries. My Body My Rights aims to remind world leaders of their obligations to respect, protect and fulfil sexual and reproductive rights.