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People take part in a demonstration under the slogan  "Together we buried the patriarchal order" to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
Image: Getty Images/AFP/J. Lago

Amnesty highlights female rights activism

Timothy Jones
December 10, 2018

Amnesty International has highlighted the growing role of women in the global fight for human rights in a new report. But it slammed "tough guy" leaders for the policies that make such activism necessary.


Women across the world played an ever-increasing role as activists fighting oppression in 2018, but the fact they are being forced to do so reflects many governments' support for measures that are hostile to their well-being, Amnesty International has said in a new report.

In its annual review of the state of global human rights, issued on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Amnesty noted protests against sexual violence in India and South Africa and protests for improved abortion laws in Argentina, Ireland and Poland as signs of burgeoning female activism.

Women's marches in the US, Europe and Japan as part of the #MeToo movement also bore witness to a growing awareness of how half of the global population is often subject to subjugation, misogyny and abuse in a male-dominated world, the report said.

Read more: Woman power from Ghana to Iceland

Kumi Naidoo: 'We must continue to stand for these rights'

'Tough guy' leaders

In a preface to the review, Secretary General Kumi Naidoo spoke of the recent emergence of "tough guy" leaders who exhibited misogyny, xenophobia and homophobia.

Naidoo pointed out that a female activist, Hansa Mehta of India, was responsible for changing the wording of Article 1 from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from "All men are born free and equal" to "All human beings are born free and equal." But Naidoo said that "70 years on, we are still fighting for women's rights to be recognized as human rights."

Naidoo called on governments to commit to the international bill of rights for women — the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women — and to implement measures to ensure women's freedom from discrimination and violence.

Rodrigo Duterte
Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines is one leader noted for his often macho, aggressive rhetoricImage: picture-alliance/dpa/AP/B. Marquez

Misogynistic policies

The report pointed to women being granted the right to drive in Saudi Arabia, new laws defining rape as sex without consent in Iceland and Sweden, and the overturning of the abortion ban in Ireland as indications that calls for women's rights were increasingly being respected.

But Amnesty said the reason women were turning to activism was because of the policies and laws in many countries that discriminate against them and make their lives harder.

As examples of such discrimination, the report cited restrictive abortion laws that still affect 40 percent of women of childbearing age. El Salvador is one of the countries that still criminalizes abortion under all circumstances, while authorities in Poland and Guatemala continue to press for stricter abortion laws, the report said.

Read more: Follow the money: What are the EU's migration policy priorities?

Woman giving thumbs-up in rear-vision mirror
Saudi women have had a long fight to gain permission to driveImage: Reuters/H. I Mohammed

Online bullying

Amnesty condemned the US for introducing cuts to the funding of family planning clinics, saying the policy puts the health of millions of women at risk.

The EU also drew criticism, with the report noting only a third of EU countries define rape as sex without consent.

The report called attention to the prevalence of violence and abuse directed at women on social media platforms such as Twitter, calling on the platform to take steps to prevent human rights abuses.

The supply of arms to Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition carrying out attacks in Yemen's civil war, was also a major focus of the report.

It called on states to stop military supplies destined for use in the Yemen conflict, which has killed or wounded tens of thousands of civilians and left millions on the brink of starvation.

Read moreYemen is 'the biggest humanitarian disaster in the world' 

Barbed-wire in camp on Lesbos
Refugees destined to be returned home under the EU-Turkey deal are housed in camps like this one on LesbosImage: DW/I. Anastassopoulou

Europe and migration

Among other topics covered in the review, Amnesty condemned what it called a "rise of intolerance, hatred and discrimination" in Europe, with leaders blaming certain groups of people, such as human rights activists, the media, the political opposition or refugees for social or economic problems in their countries.

 Hungary's government was singled out for its rampant intolerance with respect to migrants, refugees and the homeless and its assaults on press freedom. Poland also came in for criticism over its introduction of legislation restricting the right to protest and its undermining of judicial independence.

Amnesty called on the EU to improve its treatment of migrants and refugees, saying the bloc was complicit in suffering caused by the migration deal with Turkey, which has left many people stranded in "squalid and unsafe conditions on Greek islands." It also slammed the EU for outsourcing border control to Libya, where migrants are known to be at risk of mistreatment in detention centers described in the review as "horrific."

#HearMeToo: Ghanaian women speak up about domestic violence

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