Gov't urged to recognize women rights defenders' work, ensure their safety

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Gov't urged to recognize women rights defenders' work, ensure their safety
File photo shows a member of a women’s organization taking part in the 1 Billion Rising event during the celebration of International Women’s Day in People’s Park in Baguio City.
The STAR / Andy Zapata, File

MANILA, Philippines — The government should recognize the legitimacy of the work of women human rights defenders and ensure their protection against violence and threats, the Commission on Human Rights said Friday.

In a statement on the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, CHR said women human rights defenders play crucial roles in developing solutions with a gender perspective and organizing communities and mobilizing actions on the ground.

“In our long struggle for substantive equity, women human rights defenders are a strong agent of change advancing the fight against inequality and discrimination,” Jacqueline De Guia, CHR spokesperson, said.

But women human rights defenders in the Philippines face repression, elevated gender-based attacks, sexual violence and harassment, De Guia lamented.

“Incidences of red-tagging, terrorist-labelling, illegal arrests and detention and criminalization of their political beliefs are just some of the grave violations that human rights workers endure,” the CHR official said.

She added: “Most of these women human rights defenders are doing volunteer work and sacrificing their time for their loved ones to provide assistance to victims of violations and their families, even at great risk to their lives and security.”

Human rights monitor Karapatan earlier told Philstar.com that at least a hundred national and community-based organizations and “numerous” individuals have been red-tagged in 2019 alone.

It also said that at least 12 human rights workers of Karapatan have been killed under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Unless the structural causes of violence and inequality are not eradicated and lack of access to justice for women, communities and human rights defenders remain, our demand for respect, security and safety of women human rights defenders will continue to be silenced and ignored,” De Guia said.

The rights body then urged the government to condemn any form of public stigmatization of human rights defenders and strengthen mechanisms safeguarding them such as the immediate enactment of the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill.

In the 17th Congress, the House of Representatives approved its version of the Human Rights Defenders Protection bill. The Senate version of the bill languished in the upper chamber.

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