November 2004

Protect the Lives of Rural Activists and Human Rights Defenders in Brazil
Pará State, Brazil, is plagued by slave labor and violent conflicts over land ownership. In recent weeks, Maria Joelma da Costa, President of the Rural Worker's Union (STR), in Rondon do Pará, has received repeated death threats. Hundreds of land activists have been killed and in the vast majority of cases, those responsible go unpunished. Take action!

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence: HIV/AIDS and Violence Against Women

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence begins on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (Nov. 25) and continues through International Human Rights Day (Dec. 10). The 16 Days of Activism is a worldwide campaign that provides an opportunity to take a stand against gender-based violence and to rally in support of women's human rights. This year's theme, "For the Health of Women, For the Health of the World: No More Violence," focuses on highlighting the connections between violence against women and HIV/AIDS.

Women make up 50% of those suffering from HIV worldwide. Women are often denied access to their most basic human rights, which include the rights to education, physical integrity, healthcare, and economic security. This discrimination renders them more vulnerable to HIV transmission and less able to access effective treatment.

Sexual violence serves to make women more vulnerable to HIV infection. Women who are trafficked into forced sexual labor, who are married as children, or who are raped cannot negotiate the conditions under which to engage in sexual relations. In such instances, women may be subjected to HIV infection in addition to the trauma of sexual violence. Additionally, rape survivors may be burdened by shame and the fear of social ostracism and therefore not seek medical attention. In all instances of sexual violence, the tearing of vaginal tissue that results from force makes the transmission of HIV more likely.

The myth that sexual relations with a virgin will cure an individual of AIDS has led to increased sexual violence in all parts of the world, particularly against young girls. This myth has also increased the demand for young girls as sex workers. This desire for young girls as sex partners has had devastating effects, increasing girls' susceptibility to disease and trapping them in a cycle of violence.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights guarantees the "right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health." The use of anti-retroviral prophylaxis within 72 hours after a rape or unprotected sex can reduce the probability of infection. Due to fear of stigma or lack of information or resources, many women do not seek post-exposure prophylaxis. Additionally, due to the high costs involved, some governments are unwilling to provide these treatments to poor women. Such policies serve to further stigmatize and subordinate already marginalized women and are in direct violation of international human rights standards.

Cultural and gender norms that restrict women's sexuality often prevent them from accessing information about sexual and reproductive health. Some cultural norms further promote the transmission of HIV because men are often allowed, and even encouraged, to seek multiple sex partners. When men become infected with HIV through extra-marital sexual relations, they risk transmitting the infection to their wives, who are often unable to negotiate protected sex due to unequal power relations.

Pregnant women find themselves especially vulnerable when they have HIV/AIDS. Pregnant women who are HIV positive may be subjected to forced sterilization or abortion. HIV test results are often not given to pregnant women, but are instead released to the woman's husband, as it is assumed that he will decide whether or not to continue the pregnancy. Fear of discrimination may discourage women from disclosing their status or seeking testing or treatment, thus exacerbating the impact of the disease. 2.5 million women who become pregnant each year are HIV-positive. Of the 14,000 new HIV infections each year, more than 1600 occur during pregnancy, childbirth and the post-natal period.

HIV/AIDS is a critical women's human rights issue and is intimately linked to violence against women. Gender inequality and the disempowerment of women and girls have resulted in pervasive violence against women and have contributed significantly to the rampant spread of HIV. Around the world, women's status, and thereby their capacity to protect themselves from infection, is largely determined by their access to education, employment, and political representation. Only by viewing HIV/AIDS infection as inextricable from women's rights issues can the disease truly be combated.

Help fight HIV/AIDS and violence against women! Participate in the 16 Days of Activism!
» Sign up now


Gay Rights Activist Murdered in Sierra Leone
Fanny Ann Eddy, the 30-year old founder of the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association, was murdered in the organization's offices on September 28. She leaves behind a 9-year-old son. She was reportedly raped repeatedly, stabbed, and had her neck was broken. Eddy was part of the delegation Human Rights Watch took to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva last spring to advocate for the failed Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Human Rights. Donations for her son and the Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Association are being collected by the Behind the Mask organization.
» More information

Further Action Necessary to Stop Violence Against Women
Amnesty International urges all governments, the Security Council and the UN as a whole to take the necessary actions to make the promises of Resolution 1325 a reality for all women. Resolution 1325 calls for increased protection of women during armed conflict, an end to impunity for gender-based abuses, and the participation of women at all levels of decision-making related to prevention, management and resolution of conflict. Along with other NGOs, Amnesty International is calling for a comprehensive UN-wide action plan, as well as seeking to ensure further integration of Resolution 1325 in all relevant areas of its work. Amnesty International also welcomes the Secretary-General's recommendations on gender-based violence, and urges the Security Council, member states, and United Nations entities to take all necessary measures to implement his recommendations.
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Nominations for the 2005 Ginetta Sagan Fund Award
The Ginetta Sagan Fund is named after the late Ginetta Sagan, Honorary Chairperson of the Board of AIUSA. The Award is given annually in recognition of individual accomplishment, but also in the belief that it will serve as a beacon of hope to women everywhere who are fighting for human rights. It is given to women who have demonstrated outstanding achievement to help women and children who are victims of violence. A $10,000 grant is given to each award recipient. Nominations must be received by December 10, 2004.
» More information

CEDAW Anniversary and Updates
On October 13, 2004, the UN marked the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In a statement to mark the anniversary of CEDAW, the committee, which in August elected 11 new members, stated that despite the adoption of the landmark global treaty on the rights of women, no country in the world has achieved total equality between the sexes both in law and in practice. Furthermore, the committee said discriminatory laws remain in many of the 178 states that are party to the treaty. In other countries, the laws may promote de jure equality but de facto discrimination remains.
» More information on CEDAW

Partnership Between AIUSA and
This holiday season and throughout the year you can help to defend human rights while you shop. For every purchase you make at through the Amnesty International USA website, AIUSA will receive between 5 - 10% of the sale. must be entered though the AIUSA website.
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<>More Action Necessary to Protect Colombian Women from Sexual Violence
Martha Arias, a journalist and human rights defender who works with the Organización Femenina Popular (OFP), recently toured the United States to raise awareness about violence against women in Colombia. Her visit also marked the launch of Amnesty International's new report, "Colombia: Scarred Bodies, Hidden Crimes: Sexual Violence Against Women in the Armed Conflict," documents the rape and sexual violence against women by guerrillas, paramilitaries and government forces. The incidences of rape and sexual violence continue to be widespread and significantly underreported.
» Read the report

Discrimination and Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada
Canadian government statistics reveal that Indigenous women between the ages of 25 and 44 are five times more likely than all other women of the same age to die as the result of violence. Amnesty International is concerned that the Canadian government is not fulfilling its obligations towards Indigenous women.
» Read the report


DC Women's Human Rights Action Team
Next meeting: Wednesday, November 10 at 6:45pm at the Amnesty International USA office (600 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, 5th floor. Metro: Eastern Market). For more information, contact

New York City's Women's Human Rights Action Team
Next meeting: Monday, December 6 at 6:45pm LOCATION TBA. For more information, contact

Amnesty International USA Regional Conferences
Nov. 5-7 Southern Regional Conference Houston, TX
Nov. 12-14 Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference College Park, MD
Nov. 12-14 Western Regional Conference Salt Lake City, UT
Nov. 13-14 Northeast Regional Conference Boston, MA
More information

Creating Change Conference
The Creating Change Conference, sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is the nation's largest annual skills building and strategy conference of activists and organizers working on issues affecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. The 17th annual conference will be held in St. Louis from November 10-14, 2004.
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Cell Phone Collection to Help End Domestic Violence
Starting December 26th, join Amnesty International USA, The Body Shop, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) and The Wireless Foundation in a national cell phone collection. Donated phones will be sold, refurbished or recycled, with proceeds benefiting NCADV and the Wireless Foundation. This year's goal is to collect 100,000 phones.

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