Women’s Front: Defend our women human rights defenders

By INNABUYOG
www.nordis.net

On November 29, we celebrate the International Women Human Rights Defenders’ Day (IWHRD). This is an international campaign started in 2004, celebrated for the recognition and protection of women human rights defenders who are activists advocating human rights for all people.

Even before the launching of the IWHRD day, States’ have international commitments to protect the rights of WHRDs and promote human rights. These commitments have been recognized since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1998). Despite all these international commitments, here in our country the rights of these WHRDs are violated by the state and its security forces.

Women human rights defenders are being vilified, threatened, intimidated, imprisoned, harassed and even killed because of their work and advocacy.This international campaign stresses that women fighting for human rights face specific violations for their work. These violations are mostly state perpetuated here in the Philippines.

Political persecution remains a practice of Duterte’s state security forces. The AFP continues to use the filing of trumped up cases to silence human rights advocates and members of progressive organizations.

Here in the Cordillera, political persecution in the past months endangered the lives and security of women human rights defenders Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Sherry Mae Soledad, Joanne Villanueva, Rachel Mariano and Asia Isabella Gepte. False criminal charges are being hurled by the 7th ID of the AFP against these 5 women human rights defenders.

Below is the testimony of Joanne Villanueva:

I have stood for women and people’s rights for more than half of my life. For more than 15 years I’ve been with Innabuyog and Cordillera Women’s Education, Research and Action Center. I have been involved in providing counseling for women who are victims and survivors of violence, including processing and facilitating cases with lawyers and concerned government agencies for appropriate action.

From my long experience with Innabuyog and CWEARC, I was faced with the realities that violence against women are not just perpetuated by men; violence against women are not just incidents of domestic violence or rape, or incest but women and children have been victims of state-sponsored violence.

The impact of militarization and poverty in indigenous communities increases the state-sponsored violence against women and children. In our research, we had documented numerous cases of abandonment of women and children by military soldiers, in communities wherein there had been military detachments. In many villages, there are no government institutions and services that support victims of domestic violence, much less state-sponsored violence.

As a human rights defender, I’ve participated in numerous fact-finding missions and peace missions in interior Cordillera communities specifically facilitating psycho-social processing on the impacts of militarization by State forces on women and children.

I have been vilified and threatened a lot of times by the military.

Now together with four other Women Human Rights Defenders, I am accused in several trumped up criminal charges filed by the 7th ID of the AFP.

For almost a year now I cannot go home to my family, because men who would not give any identification but introduced themselves as members of the National Intelligence Commission Agency had been harassing and threatening my family that I would be arrested because I was accused of several trumped up charges. These men had threatened my mother that if she did not tell them of my whereabouts, she will also be accountable. My home has been under surveillance for months.

I have been separated from my family. My parents and brother have been in constant fear for my safety. My movement is now restricted. I am outraged, because I cannot perform my duties in the communities because of these trumped up charges. We are missing the opportunity to help women and children who need it most.

Stop state sponsored violence against women!
Drop all trumped up charges against all women human rights defenders! # nordis.net

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