FORUM-ASIA Statement – International Women’s Day 2015
On International Women’s Day FORUM-ASIA joins the international community in celebrating the political, economic, social and cultural achievements of women and acknowledging the contribution that women have played in pursuing and strengthening peace, development and protection of human rights.
On this day FORUM-ASIA would like to send a particular message of appreciation and support to all women human rights defenders (WHRDs) committed to the advancement, promotion and protection of all human rights. In Asia, many WHRDs who are on the front line for the promotion and protection of human rights are open to far greater risks when advocating for their causes. Women are the targets not only of conventional abuses but also more underreported and frequently overlooked abuses such as sexual violence. This is largely due to the influence of cultural and religious norms as well as patriarchal attitudes, combined with worrying levels of impunity accepted by traditional communities.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, FORUM-ASIA recognises all the WHRDs on the ground, in particular those defenders who continue to face risks and threats due to their restless struggles.
In India, the civil and political activist Irom Sharmila Chanu, commonly referred to as the Iron Lady of Manipur, began a hunger strike in 2000 protesting the Indian government’s use of the draconian Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 (AFSPA). She has since been subjected to a vicious cycle of arrests and criminalisation. The same harassment faced now by another brave social activist, Teesta Setalvad, who continues to face harassment through trumped-up charges in connection with her work to achieve justice for the victims of the Gulbarg Society Massacre during the horrific 2002 communal riots in Gujarat.
In Sri Lanka, Balendran Jayakumari and her 13-year old daughter B. Vibooshika are currently detained following their arrest in March 2014. Jayakumari, whose own son was disappeared, and her daughter have prominently advocated against disappearances in the country and were leading voices in demanding the whereabouts of missing persons arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Sri Lanka.
In Cambodia, 10 WHRDs protecting land rights issues were sentenced in November 2014 to 1 year’s imprisonment following a peaceful protest about the continuing flooding of their homes. Seven of them have been active campaigners for several years and have frequently faced judicial harassment and arrest.
In observance of this auspicious day, FORUM-ASIA recalls the importance of the landmark resolution on protecting WHRDs adopted by UN General Assembly in 2013, and urge Asian governments to act upon and adopt effective legislation and policies for the recognition and protection of WHRDs.
Download our Snapshot of WHRDs in Asia 2014 @www.forum-asia.org
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