Hoping to shed light on how Ecuadorian Indigenous and mestiza women are subject to systemic criminalization and repression for their work protecting the Amazon rainforest from fossil fuel exploitation and pollution, a panel comprised entirely of such women will on Monday bring their grievances to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in Washington D.C.
Many of the women have experienced attacks, threats, surveillance from the government, public vilification, unjust accusations of terrorism without fair process, and pretrial detention after peacefully participating in demonstrations, according to legal nonprofit EarthRights International, which is supporting the activists in their quest for justice.
And these incidents “are not without a gendered component,” EarthRights points out.
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“Often discourse on the situation of environmental defenders in Ecuador primarily focuses on the criminalization and repression of men, even in the context of Indigenous rights,” said EarthRights attorney Maryum Jordan. “It is time for domestic and international stakeholders to adequately pay attention to the experiences of these Indigenous women defenders and promote positive change that rectifies the types of abuses they disproportionately experience.”
Ecuador is witnessing a large-scale Indigenous revolt against the government of President Rafael Correa. In August, Indigenous groups from across the country rose up in a general strike to challenge proposed Constitutional amendments curtailing Indigenous rights and allowing Correa to stay in power indefinitely; a national water privatization law; expansion of mining and fossil fuel concessions; and the government’s opposition to bilingual education, among many other concerns.
Women have been at the forefront of marches, community actions, and demonstrations in opposition to these government policies; they have also experienced an disproportionate crackdown.
“We invite all women of the world to join us, your Indigenous Sisters of the Americas, to put a stop to the destruction. We are drawing the line and saying that the harms stop here and now.”
—Defenders of Mother Earth treaty
A statement from “Women of the Strike” issued in August read in part: “We strongly condemn the macho and criminal brutality with which the State has attacked and criminalized women having participated in the demonstrations… We demand that international human rights institutions call on the Ecuadorian Government to cease these aggressions against people participating in the strike and in particular against women human rights and nature’s rights defenders.”
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