Ireland must prioritise female healthcare, urges women’s council

Group seeks free contraception, universal pension system and support for lone parents.

 

By Shauna Bowers

 

The Irish Times (20.01.2020) – https://bit.ly/369TcWN – Ireland has had a “litany of historic health scandals” affecting women and female healthcare must now be prioritised, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) has said.

 

In its “feminist Ireland manifesto”, published on Tuesday, the NWCI called on general election candidates to show their commitment to gender equality by signing up to 10 key issues, relating to women’s health, domestic violence and accommodation.

 

Among the feminist lobby group’s demands were calls for free universal contraception, support for lone parents, establishment of domestic homicide reviews and the introduction of a universal pension system.

 

Orla O’Connor, director of NWCI, said the election has the potential to “set the political agenda for the next five years” and will be “crucial” in deciding the future direction of the country.

 

“We have seen from recent controversies such as CervicalCheck that women’s health must be given consistent focus and dedicated resources,” Ms O’Connor said. “We have to put a sustained focus on women’s health, on the gaps that exist in services and in driving the change that women have been so active in calling for publicly.

 

Delivery of SláinteCare

 

“We’re calling on candidates to commit to the delivery of SláinteCare, to develop women-centred mental health services, to introduce universal, free contraception and to ensure access to the full range of abortion services across the country.”

 

The NWCI also raised the issue of domestic violence and called for an increase in the number of domestic abuse refuge spaces available across the State.

 

“One in four women in Ireland experience physical and sexual violence,” Ms O’Connor added. “After Ireland finally ratified the Istanbul Convention on violence against women in 2019, we need candidates who will prioritise its full implementation, including strengthening legislation and investing in frontline services, and ensuring Ireland has enough refuge places.”

 

Ms O’Connor said Ireland has “the highest childcare costs in Europe, one of the highest rates of women’s homelessness in Europe, and only one third our recommended refuge spaces for women fleeing violence”, adding that it is “critical” that the incoming government tackle gender equality.

 

The 10 issues in NWCI’s feminist Ireland manifesto

 

– End the housing and homelessness crisis

– Prioritise women’s health

– Deliver a public childcare service

– Change Ireland’s record on violence against women

– Ensure safe, legal and local access to abortion

– Eliminate poverty

– End the gender pay gap and deliver decent work for women

– Advance women’s leadership

– Lead a green new deal

– Guarantee access to justice




WORLD: The UN unveils 6 themes in a big year pushing for women’s rights

By Stéphanie Fillion

 

PassBlue (20.01.2020) – https://bit.ly/2TJAani – As the countdown to this year’s main events celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women has begun, UN Women has announced six themes to anchor the two Generation Equality forums to be held in May and in July. While many women’s groups applaud the broad themes, some have serious qualms about one topic in particular.

 

The Generation Equality Forum is a civil society-led global gathering, officially announced last June, that will play a major role in the Beijing+25 commemorations. They officially start with the annual Commission on the Status of Women, or CSW, in March at the United Nations, where a review of the progress and gaps of the 1995 Beijing agenda will be made to inform the two forums later in the year as well as a UN General Assembly session in September.

 

The new “action coalition” themes are: gender-based violence, economic justice and rights, bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive rights, feminist action for climate justice, technology innovation for gender equality and investing in feminist movements and leadership.

 

UN Women leads the Generation Equality forums with France and Mexico, where women-centered groups, “allied countries” and other partners will convene from May 7-8 in Mexico City and July 7-10 in Paris. Their goal is to further define the blueprint hammered out at the New York conference on how to achieve gender equality — especially for young women — by 2030.

 

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted by 189 countries at a conference held in 1995 to achieve gender equality and women’s rights. Hillary Clinton, the United States first lady at the time, famously declared at the Beijing meeting, “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights. . . . ”

 

Despite progress on some fronts, no country has achieved gender equality since that bold declaration. In the current political environment, growing nationalism and populism in certain countries, such as the US, pushback against ensuring full rights for women has been powered by the highest levels of governments.

 

“The themes for the action coalitions were finalized through a thorough analytical process of reviewing evidence and data to assess the nature of need, the degree of readiness and the action coalition’s ability to deliver game-changing results within five years,” said Julien Pellaux, the strategic planning adviser to the executive director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

 

Each coalition will be led by a group of partners, including UN member states, women’s movements, civil society organizations and corporations as well as some UN agencies. The themes were chosen by a 52-member Generation Equality Strategic Planning and Leadership Group, formed by UN Women.

 

In addition, the coalitions will work on a plan toward the UN Decade of Action, which aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals.

 

This year is also an important marker for commemorating UN Security Council Resolution 1325, on women, peace and security, a 20-year-old landmark document ensuring women’s rights in conflict. It has made scant progress in guaranteeing that women are equally represented at peace negotiations, to the disappointment of many women’s groups.

 

While some themes chosen by UN Women echo traditional ones on gender issues, the one on technology innovation reflects more recent realities.

 

Technology holds significant potential to improve women’s and girls’ lives, Pellaux from UN Women told PassBlue. “The diverse ways in which technology is impacting on gender equality shows that rather than being an unstoppable force, technology is malleable and can be geared towards the achievement of social goals with the right interventions and levers.

 

“Interventions and investments should support technological development and innovation and ensure that technology serves the purpose of advancing gender equality,” he said.

 

‘Bodily autonomy’

 

The reaction to the announcement of the themes has not been roundly praised. Some women’s groups around the world are dismayed about the process behind the choice of themes and the results, saying the decision-making has been dominated by Western organizations favoring decriminalization of prostitution.

 

In November, PassBlue published a story about UN Women having just declared its neutrality in the battle among global feminists over whether sex work should be decriminalized. At the time, a statement from Mlambo-Ngcuka, the head of UN Women, overruled a 2013 memo that the agency would “recognize the right of all sex workers to choose their work or leave it and to have access to other employment opportunities.”

 

The move to neutrality by UN Women, possibly to avoid fearsome squabbles on the topic during 2020 commemorations, seemed to surprise advocates of decriminalization.

 

“We are aware of the different positions and concerns on the issue of prostitution/sex work and are attentive to the important views of all concerned,” Mlambo-Ngcuka wrote in he statement. “UN Women has taken a neutral position on this issue. Thus, UN Women does not take a position for or against the decriminalization/legalization of prostitution/sex work.”

 

Mlambo-Ngcuka was responding to a letter she had received days earlier, signed by more than 1,400 individuals and organizations, who were concerned that UN Women was allowing civil society groups advocating for decriminalization of buyers and sellers of sex to influence future debates about women’s equality and rights. Those debates included the Generation Equality forums and the Commission on the Status of Women meeting. Last week’s announcement on the action themes, however, is keeping the debate around UN Women’s neutrality alive.

 

Taina Bien-Aimé, the executive director of the New York-based Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, which opposes the legalization of prostitution/sex work, denounced the wording of the theme on “bodily integrity.” She says it favors one side of the debate.

 

The letter sent to UN Women last fall was written by Bien-Aimé’s organization. She is a former Wall Street lawyer and a founder of Equality Now.

 

“The concern is that,” Bien-Aimé told PassBlue, “while respect for SRHR [sexual and reproductive health and rights] is key to all women’s fundamental rights to health and equality, it has, incomprehensibly, become a vehicle to push to legalize the global multi-billion-dollar sex trade and redefine prostitution as labor.”

 

Pellaux of UN Women said the wording of the themes “was kept general for now with the expectation that Coalition leaders will have [to] further refine the titles as part of the Action Coalition blueprints.”

 

“This includes the coalition on ‘bodily integrity and sexual and reproductive health and rights,’ ” he said.




USA: A well of grief: the relatives of murdered Native women speak out

Native American women and girls are targeted at rates that far outweigh other American women, and are 10 times more likely to be murdered.

 

By Sara Hylton

 

The Guardian (13.01.2020) – https://bit.ly/30qH4iU – On a warm summer day in 2018, Lissa Yellow-bird Chase packed her vehicle with sunscreen, iPads, spiritual items and water. She drove to the bank of Lake Sakakawea on the edge of Fort Berthold Reservation, in western North Dakota.

 

She parked her vehicle, bearing the license plate “SEARCH”, and prepared for a long day ahead. As she’d done several days that summer, she began to scour her territory for clues. With fishing sonar equipment and a dilapidated old boat, she had nothing to go by but her instincts.

 

It was here, in the deep blue lake, that she and volunteers from her group the Sahnish Scouts of North Dakota, found the body of Olivia Lonebear. The 32-year-old and mother of five had last been seen in New Town, a small oil-boom city on the edge of Fort Berthold Reservation, nine months prior.

 

A hidden epidemic

 

Countless women have been victims of similar, less high-profile cases, but Lonebear’s death exposed the reality in which Native American women and girls live – what the former North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp called a “hidden epidemic”. The facts are dire. Native American women and girls are sexually assaulted and targeted at rates far greater than other American women, and they are 10 times more likely to be murdered.

 

In 2015, the Canadian government announced a national inquiry into the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG). In June, the commissioners found the state responsible for “a race-based genocide”. The treatment of Indigenous women is no less alarming across the border: while Canada collects some data, the US federal government does not track how many people like Lonebear go missing or turn up murdered.

 

Twenty-three-year-old Heather Belgrade, Lonebear’s cousin who lives across the border in north-eastern Montana, has also been grieving the death of her best friend Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, who was brutally murdered in 2017. The case helped to bring about Savanna’s Act, which enacted a set of reforms in how law enforcement agencies deal with cases of missing and murdered Native Americans.

 

The dangers of the oil industry

 

While the realities facing Native American women and girls are gaining more attention, what is less understood are the effects of extractive industries, mainly oil, on Native American women and communities.

 

Residents across Fort Peck Reservation are sensitized to the impacts of the oil industry. The reservation is situated not far from large oil boom towns like Williston and Watford City in North Dakota and is in the direct vicinity of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline expansion. Many of the community members I spoke to discussed the influx of crime, sexual violence and drugs when the Bakken oil boom began in 2006. They’re bracing for what’s to come.

 

Prairiedawn Thunderchild and her older sister Tahnee Thunderchild learned of those dangers early one evening when they were walking home to their apartment in Wolf Point, a small town of a few thousand people, on Fort Peck Reservation in Montana.

 

That evening, the girls saw a car with North Dakota license plates approaching. The car began to follow them, and the men, whom they didn’t recognize from their community, told the sisters to get into the vehicle.

 

The girls knew that a car full of non-native men with North Dakota plates probably meant they were oil employees. They had heard stories of trafficking, kidnapping and sexual assault. They ran and called the tribal police. “[They] probably wanted gross things from us,” Tahnee told me.

 

Some activists have linked the environmental impacts of extractive practices with an increase of rape among women in the region.

 

“Man camps,” as they have come to be known, house thousands of temporary oil workers with disposable income, who are dealing with the stressors of dangerous working conditions. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would bring in more “man camps” affecting Native American women and communities.

 

“Oil industry camps may be impacting domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the direct and surrounding communities in which they reside,” the Department Of Justice found.

 

Eight-year-old Macylilly Whitehawk was sexually assaulted and abducted when she was just four years old, and meth was found in her system from the assailant’s semen. Though the assailant was from the reservation, Macylilly’s grandmother and caregiver, Valerie Whitehawk, believes what happened to her granddaughter is linked to the increase in drugs and violence stemming from the region’s oil industry.

 

The complications of dealing with crimes in Indian country often means that cases fall between the cracks or go unreported. In cases of sexual assault, non-native men who assault women on reservations cannot be arrested or prosecuted by tribal authorities. A minority of reservations, including Fort Peck Reservation, fall under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which allows tribal authorities jurisdiction to prosecute non-native men who commit crimes within their territory.

 

According to Stacie Smith, Fort Peck’s elected tribal chief judge, this jurisdiction was established in 2013 in order to respond to threats facing the community in large part by the oil industry. Smith is working with community activist Angeline Cheek to develop a set of tools to educate the community on the dangers of “man camps” and to prepare for the worst. They are also working to establish “Amber Alert”, an early warning system to help find missing and abducted people.

 

On one of my last days in Wolf Point, I attended the Fort Peck powwow. I noticed a tipi in the distance that the light seemed to particularly favor. I walked over and was greeted by the tribal chief of the Assiniboine tribe, a tall, gentle man, who goes by Joe Miller. He invited me to sit with him and shared the story of how he named his life partner Eagle Woman Flies Above.

 

I shared with Joe that a few weeks before, I had seen an eagle flying around in Brooklyn that perched above the tree where I was sitting. A rare occurrence in a concrete jungle. Joe told me that the eagle is a sacred symbol, representing courage and wisdom. “It brought you here,” he said.

 

I sat with his response, feeling its significance. The sun was settling into a magenta hue and a crescent moon began to take shape. I asked Joe what he thought about the issues facing the women in his community, and he responded: “They are the life givers of our people … if they weren’t here, we wouldn’t be here.”

 

It occurred to me that perhaps if we paid more attention, we would notice many eagles flying above, calling us to listen with more wisdom and courage. Calling us to awaken to this assault against our common humanity.




Iran’s sole female Olympic medalist says she’s defected

By Vasco Cotovio

 

CNN (12.01.2020) – https://cnn.it/2Re9pVt – Iran’s sole female Olympic medalist, Kimia Alizadeh, has announced that she’s permanently left her country for Europe.

 

“Let me start with a greeting, a farewell or condolences,” the 21-year-old wrote in an Instagram post explaining why she was defecting. “I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran who they have been playing with for years.”

 

Alizadeh became the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal after claiming bronze in the 57kg category of Taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

 

Affectionately known in Iran as “The Tsunami,” Alizadeh announced she was leaving her birth country amid searing criticism of the regime in Tehran.

 

“They took me wherever they wanted. I wore whatever they said. Every sentence they ordered me to say, I repeated. Whenever they saw fit, they exploited me,” she wrote, adding that credit for her success always went to those in charge.

 

“I wasn’t important to them. None of us mattered to them, we were tools,” Alizadeh added, explaining that while the regime celebrated her medals, it criticized the sport she had chosen: “The virtue of a woman is not to stretch her legs!”

 

Reports of her defection first surfaced Thursday, with some Iranians suggesting she had left for the Netherlands. It was unclear from her post what country Alizadeh had gone to.

 

On Friday the head of Iran’s Taekwondo Federation, Seyed Mohammad Pouladgar, claimed Alizadeh had assured both her father and her coach that she was traveling as part of her vacation, a trip he claimed was paid for by the Iranian government. He dismissed the reports of Alizadeh’s defection as politically motivated rumors amplified by the foreign media.

 

Alizadeh confirmed the rumors Saturday, saying she “didn’t want to sit at the table of hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery” and that she did not want to be complicit with the regime’s “corruption and lies.”

 

“My troubled spirit does not fit with your dirty economic ties and tight political lobbies. I wish for nothing else than for Taekwondo, safety and for a happy and healthy life, she said adding that she was not invited to go to Europe.

 

She said the decision was harder than winning Olympic gold. “I remain a daughter of Iran wherever I am,” she said.

 

Her defection came amid anti-government protests in cities across Iran Saturday and international pressure after Iran admitted it had accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger airliner, killing all 176 people aboard.

 

Canada, Sweden and other countries whose citizens died on the plane have increased demands on Tehran to deliver a complete and transparent investigation against the backdrop of fresh US sanctions on Iran and a dangerous escalation with Washington.

 

“Iran will continue to lose more strong women unless it learns to empower and support them,” said US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus about Alizadeh’s defection.




How blackmail, harassment forced Pakistani women from university

Many parents pull out their daughters from Balochistan University after CCTV footage was used to blackmail students.

 

By Iman Sultan

 

Al Jazeera (09.01.2020) – https://bit.ly/35AkogX – Rahila* had missed the deadline to submit her application for admission to Balochistan University, and feared she would now have to wait months before being able to apply again.

 

A teacher at the pharmacy department, however, offered to help her submit her forms and gain admission to the university, the main institute for higher education in the southwestern Pakistani province after which it is named.

 

After she filled out the forms, however, she alleges the same teacher began to harass her by sending her text messages, mostly at night, and threatened to cancel her admission when she did not reply to him.

 

“From his words, I could tell his intentions were not good,” Rahila, 20, said. “I felt so strange about it. I used to call him ‘sir’ with so much respect to his face, and he turned out to be this creepy, inappropriate person. At that point, I lost confidence in myself.”

 

Rahila’s experience is just one of many cases of alleged sexual harassment at this government-run university, where allegations have been made that university officials used CCTV footage of male and female students mingling to extort and blackmail them.

 

Balochistan has a female literacy rate of 33.5 percent, and the danger of harassment is often cited by parents who refuse to send their daughters to school. Only 5.07 percent of Pakistan’s roughly 102 million women ever complete university, according to the country’s bureau of statistics.

 

In October last year, the Balochistan High Court directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to investigate the allegations against university officials, directing officials to submit a full report on the blackmail allegations.

 

News of the scandal led Javed Iqbal, the university’s vice-chancellor, to step down, and many parents pulled their daughters out of the university.

 

“All the struggle people did for women’s education has suffered a setback of 20 or 30 years because of this scandal,” said Shain Taj Raisani, 26, an MPhil student at the university.

 

“Girls who were coming into the education field with their opinions now feel threatened.”

 

Education a key battleground

 

Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest but least populated province, is rich in mineral resources and is home to a port at the heart of China’s $60bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project that runs through the country.

 

The province is, however, one of the least developed parts of the country, with its vast, rugged terrain only sparsely populated by small towns and villages.

 

Education is a key battleground. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, less than 12 percent women in Balochistan made it past primary school.

 

Many say the recent scandal has led to even more parents pulling their daughters out of higher education.

 

“A [university] hostel is like a home […] if your daughter isn’t safe at school, then her parents won’t let her study at the university,” Mahrang Baloch, 25, a student at Bolan Medical College located in the provincial capital Quetta, added.

 

Security on campus

 

Home to about 10,000 students, Balochistan University is not your typical university campus. Located on Sariab Road in the southern quarter of Quetta, the area has often been the site of suicide bombings or targeted attacks against security forces or, on occasion, university officials.

 

“Many professors have fallen victim to this terrorism in the past 12 years,” said a senior FIA official investigating the video scandal case. “Both professors and students have been martyred. We’ve lost too many people,” the officer, who wished to remain anonyous, told Al Jazeera.

 

CCTV cameras have been installed all over the campus to safeguard students and faculty against that threat, and both police and paramilitary soldiers are stationed across the university.

 

Students, however, fear that the pervasive security on campus had undermined their learning experience. Others say it has contributed to the atmosphere of harassment at the university.

 

“When I was at university, [the paramilitary Frontier Corps] had made its checkpoints everywhere. They would harass and throw their numbers [written on pieces of paper] at women,” Yassir Baloch, 27, who graduated from the university in 2017, said.

 

“And they’d sexually harass and blackmail young men, who had just come from college and were 20 or 21 years old. Sometimes, [security and university officials] would catch couples too. They’d tell them we’ll show this video to your parents. If you give us Rs 50,000 [roughly $320], we’ll delete the video.”

 

Wali Rehman, the registrar of the university, however, said paramilitary soldiers don’t interfere in the “academic blocks”, but pass through “university-regulated areas, grounds, sports area and colony”.

 

“Frontier Corps isn’t there to tell students what to do or not to do. They only come if there’s danger,” he told Al Jazeera.

 

In November, security forces agreed to vacate the university after a parliamentary committee recommended universities reevaluate the deployment of security forces amid public pressure in the wake of the CCTV scandal.

 

The misuse of cameras

 

The university currently has 56 CCTV cameras in operation, down from 94 cameras, three of which did not work. According to the registrar, the university disconnected “unnecessary” cameras, referring to the installation of CCTV in “unauthorised” places.

 

“At the direction of the court, we disconnected 37 cameras. Cameras that were in places where they were not needed were uninstalled,” Rehman, the registrar, told Al Jazeera.

 

During the investigation into the video scandal, the FIA obtained university and security officials’ laptops and mobile phones, and Saifullah Langove, the head of the security control room, was removed from his post.

 

The senior FIA official investigating the case said there was no standard operating procedure for how the data collected on them would be used.

 

“Cameras wouldn’t have been misused if the protocol was defined,” he said.

 

The university said it is now developing a new policy for how the cameras will be used and who controls them.

 

There, is, however, scepticism among digital rights activists on the effectiveness of such surveillance systems, and their effects.

 

“Technology will enable universities to see their students on all corners and regulate them. When you feel you are being watched, you’ll start to behave how authority wants you to,” said Shmyla Khan, a project manager for Digital Rights Foundation.

 

Meanwhile, a sexual harassment committee has been set up in the university, headed by Sobiah Ramzan of the Institute of Management Sciences. The local provincial committee is also investigating the affair.

 

An ongoing investigation

 

Women who have faced harassment at the university may be too scared to come forward because of the shame associated with sexual assault in a tribal society.

 

“If something happened to me, even if I wanted to come forward, I wouldn’t be able to confess because we live in a tribal society,” Sadia Baloch, a 19-year-old student at the university’s law college, said. “On account of our families, we can’t even talk about it.”

 

The FIA officer said that he had been investigating the case for months, and the media had, in fact, frightened away victims, who may have otherwise come forward to assist with the investigation.

 

“We live in a very conservative society [in Balochistan]. If there are victims, they don’t want to come forward anymore,” he said.

 

Students who claim to be in contact with sexual harassment victims confirmed to Al Jazeera that many “girls are scared” and do not trust that their privacy would be protected through the investigation process.

 

“Who can guarantee if a girl comes forward, her information won’t be leaked?” Mahrang Baloch told Al Jazeera.




SAUDI ARABIA: Repressive site for Dakar Rally

As Amaury Sport Race proceeds, women activists sit in prison.

 

HRW (03.01.2020) – https://bit.ly/2uzRlxr – The Amaury Sport Organisation should use its decision to move the Dakar Rally to Saudi Arabia to denounce the persecution of women’s rights advocates in the country, Human Rights Watch, MENA Rights Group, and 11 other international human rights organizations said today. The 2020 Dakar Rally – formerly known as the Paris-Dakar Rally – will begin on January 5, 2020, in Jeddah, and finish on January 17, 2020, 9,000 kilometers later, in Al-Qiddiya.

 

“The Amaury Sport Organisation and race drivers at the Dakar Rally should speak out about the Saudi government’s mistreatment of women’s rights activists for advocating for the right to drive,” said Minky Worden, global initiatives director at Human Rights Watch. “Fans, media, and race teams shouldn’t be blinded by the rally’s spectacle while Saudi Arabia ‘sports-washes’ the kingdom’s jailing of peaceful critics.”

 

The Dakar Rally is an annual off-road endurance race organized by the French Amaury Sport Organisation. In April, the company announced that the 2020 rally would be held throughout Saudi Arabia as part of a five-year partnership with its government.

 

Sponsors, broadcasters, and athletes are affected by sports organizations’ choices to hold major events in countries that violate basic human rights, the groups said. By agreeing to a five-year relationship with Saudi Arabia, the Amaury Sport Organisation should also agree to adopt and carry out a human rights policy that would identify risks and make use of its leverage to promote respect for human rights in Saudi Arabia and across its operations. FIFA, the global football organization, and other major companies have adopted such policies in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

 

Since the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, Saudi Arabia has faced increased international criticism over its human rights record – particularly its lack of transparency regarding the investigation of Khashoggi’s murder and its leading role in a military coalition responsible for serious violations of the laws of war in Yemen.

 

Saudi Arabia has also created one of the most hostile environments for human rights defenders in recent years, arbitrarily detaining dozens of rights advocates. They include Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sadah, and Nouf Abdulaziz, who advocated women’s right to drive and an end to the discriminatory male guardianship system. While some others have been temporarily released, they and the four who remain in detention are still on trial for their peaceful activism. Several activists have alleged that they were tortured in detention, including with electric shocks, flogging, sexual threats, and other ill-treatment.

 

“More than a dozen women drivers will take part in the Dakar Rally while Saudi women activists languish in jail for promoting the right to drive,” said Inès Osman, director of MENA Rights Group. “Saudi Arabia should not get a free lane because it is hosting a prominent sporting event like the Dakar Rally.”

 

Human Rights Watch, MENA Rights Group, and various other groups urge Dakar organizers, participants, and official broadcasters to press Saudi authorities to immediately release all detained Saudi women’s rights defenders and drop the charges against them. The Amaury Sport Organisation should engage with human rights advocates and adopt a human rights policy to ensure that its operations do not contribute to human rights violations.

 

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises outline companies’ duties to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts resulting from business operations. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provide that business enterprises have a responsibility to “avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities,” “address such impacts when they occur,” and “seek to prevent them.”

 

“The Amaury Sport Organisation has an opportunity to join other sporting bodies in advancing respect for human rights where they hold events,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch. “Adopting and abiding by a human rights policy will mean avoiding having to endorse a repressive host country’s abusive record.”