International Women’s Day: Female indigenous human rights activists are threatened in many ways
European Union must pay more attention to their difficult situation (Press Release)
On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) is calling for better protection for female indigenous human rights activists. “Female indigenous human rights activists are threatened in many ways: as women, as members of an indigenous community, and as human rights activists. If the European Union is serious about its commitment to women’s rights, then its directives on the protection of human rights defenders must take special account of the situation of indigenous women,” the human rights organization stated in a letter to EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini. “Female indigenous human rights activists must no longer become victims of arbitrariness, intimidation, and power struggles. They are particularly vulnerable, which is why they need special protection,” said Ulrich Delius, the STP’s director, in Göttingen on Wednesday.
For example, Aura Lolita Chávez, a Mayan woman from Guatemala, has received death threats because she protested against illegal deforestation, which is destroying the livelihood of her people. Illegal deforestation is a threat to the water supply of the indigenous communities, as the forest is an important water reservoir for the Maya. “Mother Earth has no price – she has to be defended,” the former teacher explained. As spokeswoman for the council of her people, she is trying to stop deforestation – also by intervening with the local authorities. There are indigenous wood transporters who check whether the trees were lawfully felled, and there are frequent conflicts with employees of wood companies.
The indigenous human rights activist Berta Caceres of the Lenca people in Honduras even lost her life because she dared to protest against the construction of a dam on a sacred river. She was murdered by contract killers in March 2016, after receiving numerous death threats. The police had decided not to grant her special protection, ignoring the threats.
“Indigenous human rights activists often suffer from massive hostility – not only in Central and South America, but also in Siberia and Indonesia,” Delius stated. For example, Yana Tannagasheva of the Shors in Siberia lost her job as a teacher because she protested against the destruction of her region due to coal mining. As can be seen from arson attacks and death threats against her family, her commitment for the human rights of the Shors is very dangerous.
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