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Remembering women killed fighting for human rights in 2017

To mark International Women Human Rights Defenders’ Day, we pay tribute to some of the women killed this year because of their activism

Source: The Guardian and AWID

Co-creating the 2017 WHRD Tribute

Carol Rossetti is a Brazilian artist who has been involved in the creation of the 2017 AWID WHRDs Tribute.

Source: Carol Rossetti

Co-creating the 2017 WHRD Tribute

Carol Rossetti is a Brazilian artist who has been involved in the creation of the 2017 AWID WHRDs Tribute.

Source: Carol Rossetti

Co-creating the 2017 WHRD Tribute

Carol Rossetti is a Brazilian artist who has been involved in the creation of the 2017 AWID WHRDs Tribute.

Source: Carol Rossetti

5 Reasons the work of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights matters to feminists

The latest report from UN expert Karima Bennoune is an important building block in the human rights response to fundamentalisms and extremisms, and has special importance for feminists.

Source: AWID

5 Reasons the work of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights matters to feminists

The latest report from UN expert Karima Bennoune is an important building block in the human rights response to fundamentalisms and extremisms, and has special importance for feminists.

Source: AWID

5 Reasons the work of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights matters to feminists

The latest report from UN expert Karima Bennoune is an important building block in the human rights response to fundamentalisms and extremisms, and has special importance for feminists.

Source: AWID

Young feminists: the future belongs to us, not transnational corporations

Corporate impunity impacts young women and girls disproportionately. Young feminists must join the growing mobilisation for a UN treaty on transnational corporations and human rights.

Source: OpenDemocracy 50.50 / AWID

Young feminists: the future belongs to us, not transnational corporations

Corporate impunity impacts young women and girls disproportionately. Young feminists must join the growing mobilisation for a UN treaty on transnational corporations and human rights.

Source: OpenDemocracy 50.50 / AWID

Human Rights Council: 36 sessions, as many conflicts and "the question of the Death Penalty"

The 36th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council ended in the final days of September with a few successes, a few question marks and a few “I can’t believe I just heard that” moments.

HRC36 allowed another round of governments playing state games, wielding power to their advantage and using ideas about culture, sovereignty and neoliberal economic policy as tactics to assert regional or national dominance.

For better and for worse, women’s human rights concerns remained a theme throughout.

The Human Rights Council (HRC), which generally meets three times a year in Geneva, is the UN’s main human rights “political body” where governments both advance human rights standards but also fight out political conflicts. In this session, the “big ticket” regional discussions focused on Syria and Palestine. Government delegations argued, of course in the most diplomatic of terms, about the Assad regime and the Israeli government occupation of Palestine and what strategies need to be adopted or stopped to end the human rights and humanitarian crises there.

But each Council session also convenes discussions in which governments adopt country and thematic resolutions. Gender and sexuality issues are often in the hidden fibers of these debates.

 

The Question of the Death Penalty

One of the most controversial resolutions focused on the “question of the death penalty” – but not actually whether the use of it infringes on human rights, which, of course it does. The death penalty violates, for instance, not only the right to life but also the right to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. As governments haven’t been able to come to agreement about banning its use, they continue to give one another permission to legally kill, based on claims to sovereignty of national legal systems. 

In this case, the Council resolution focused on the right to equality and discriminatory application in the use of the death penalty, with some emphasis on “deploring” and “condemning” execution of those exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, those under 18 at the time of the crime, people with mental or intellectual disabilities, and in an interesting nod to gender and sexual rights, concerns about killing of pregnant women, people who engage in same-sex sexual relations and those who engage in adultery.

As for that last item, the final resolution noted the disproportionate use of the death penalty to punish women who have sex outside of heterosexual marriage (of course it didn’t use that exact language, but heteronormativity is implied).

HRC 36 session
© Eric Bridiers | Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Participants at the Human Rights Council

The language of adultery and the focus on women is a good development in promoting a gendered analysis of state killing. So is the referencing of people who are killed because of their real or perceived sexual orientation. Some delegations opposed these references to gender and sexuality with thinly veiled extremist arguments - they argued that the language of the resolution challenged their national and cultural systems.

In other words, they argued that because their cultures or legal systems allow for killing people who engage in certain sexual behaviours, they couldn’t vote to support the non-discrimination language - or sometimes any language - in the text. There were close to ten amendments proposed to the resolution – all put forward by Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia - to limit its reach. Two were focused on the issue of sovereignty itself. All amendments were defeated, yet human rights and sexual rights advocates have reason to be concerned as some votes were a bit too close for comfort.

These states voted against the resolution: Bangladesh, Botswana, Burundi, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iraq, Japan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and the United States.

One note about the final vote and post Council media: since the Council ended, a few media outlets have used a “gay spin” in their coverage about the death penalty resolution that’s a bit misleading. They have implied that the US voted against the resolution because it referenced consensual same-sex behavior. In fact, sometimes their spin made this seem like that reference was at the core of the resolution. But, in reality, the US generally votes against any death penalty resolution because execution is still legal – and used (as recently as in early October in the states of Alabama, Florida and Texas) - as a form of punishment.

So, the content of any resolution may not matter much: The US will still oppose it.

 

Source: AWID