CHR seeks more protection measures for women rights defenders
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has called on the government to ensure that human rights workers would be protected from any form of violence and to denounce the stigma that accompanies the job.
CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said this in her message for International Women Human Rights Defenders Day on Friday. De Guia said this is a tribute for women who have worked tirelessly to uplift their lives — especially in the Philippines where human rights workers have been the target of attacks.
“Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) are pivotal in promoting sustainable peace and in developing solutions with a gender perspective. They play a crucial role in organizing communities and mobilizing actions on the ground,” De Guia said.
“Yet, in the Philippines, WHRDs face repression, elevated gender-based attacks, sexual violence, and harassment. They too do not enjoy full participation in decision-making and other political processes. In our long struggle for substantive equity, WHRDs are a strong agent of change advancing the fight against inequality and discrimination,” she added.
De Guia also underscored the need to strip the mindset that human rights workers are communist rebels and terrorists, and to stop their criminalization based on political beliefs and dissent.
“Most of these WHRDs 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,” she explained.
“Persisting impunity shows how the government fails to provide stronger accountability for state and non-state actors who routinely vilify and violate people’s human rights. Furthermore, the much-needed space for civic participation, dissent, and freedom of expression are closing down quickly,” she added.
Several human rights defenders have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, with Albay 5th District Rep. Edcel Lagman saying that there have already been 134 deaths.
This was Lagman’s basis for crafting House Bill No. 9199 or the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives on third and final reading in June.
READ: 134 human rights defenders killed since Duterte assumed office — Lagman
READ: House OKs bill protecting human rights defenders
De Guia asks that the government enact the said proposed measure, and implement it fully to prevent other killings from happening.
“We demand the State’s commitment to protect them against violence or threats, to strengthen institutions and mechanisms safeguarding them such as the immediate enactment and full implementation of the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill,” she insisted.
“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 WHRDs will continue to be silenced and ignored,” she added.
Edited by MUF
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