Americas: Abortion rights activists threatened, attacked and harassed – New Report
· Vicious smear campaigns and threats aimed at closing down debate
· Activists subjected to public harassment, death threats and physical attacks
· Government officials using inflammatory language to intimidate activists
Scores of women working to promote access to safe abortions, sex education, contraceptives and other sexual and reproductive rights across the Americas are falling victim to increasingly vicious smear campaigns and threats geared at halting any debate on the issues, said Amnesty International in a new report today.
Amnesty has spoken to dozens of women human rights defenders across Latin America who have been subjected to public harassment, death threats and physical attacks because of their work. Public attacks have come from both private individuals and government representatives.
These crimes are rarely investigated and those responsible almost never face the courts.
Amnesty International’s Americas director Erika Guevara Rosas said:
“Daring to speak about abortion and sex education in Latin America seems to be reason enough to be labelled a ´criminal’, a ‘murderer’, and even a ‘terrorist’. Unless governments step up in their responsibility to respect their work and protect these courageous human rights defenders, this situation will continue to deteriorate dangerously in the near future.
“The relentless smear campaigns against women whose job is to promote the rights and wellbeing of all, shows the worst side of a region that claims it is advancing in terms of human rights.
“Smear campaigns are the oldest trick in the book to try and stop activists from speaking out about issues that are uncomfortable to the authorities. They are usually also the first step before activists are taken to the courts. The fact that these campaigns take place is not surprising, but seeing authorities sit back and watch as activists and their families are terrorised to the point of abandoning their work is absolutely shocking.”
Activists working at Paraguayan human rights organisation CLADEM, who supported the family of a 10 year old rape survivor’s request for an abortion, have been subjected to malicious intimidation, harassment and surveillance.
Since taking on the case, members of CLADEM report that their phones and computers have been hacked – with 14 pieces of malware found in their laptops in a period of months. Several of the activists also said they and their families have been photographed by strangers, threated by phone and that their cars were vandalised.
In Yucatán, Mexico – where access to abortion services is legally allowed in certain circumstances -- a brutal campaign against members of the only organisation providing safe and legal abortions forced the vast majority of staff to resign for fear of violent reprisals if they were identified as working in the clinic.
Earlier this year and all throughout 2014, members of women’s rights organizations Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto and the Colectiva Feminista para el Desarrollo Local in El Salvador were subjected to a cruel harassment campaign after they publicly supported 17 women in prison for pregnancy related complications.
Anti-abortion groups, conservative media outlets and politicians publicly said these women’s rights defenders in El Salvador were “pro-death”, “willing to multiply the blood already running through the rivers of our country”, and “promoting a culture of death”.