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Honduras: As Human Rights Violations Go Unpunished, “Feminists in Resistance” Fight for Justice

By Silvia Viñas
HONDURAS — On June 28, 2009, the democratically elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was ousted through a coup d’état. The Americas Policy Program reports that just two months after the coup “over 400 cases of violations of the human rights of women were registered.”
The report goes on to declare, “The incidence of women’s human rights violations far exceeds those reported.”
On December 20, 2010, Human Rights Watch released their latest report on abuses committed after the coup:
“After the coup, security forces committed serious human rights violations – including excessive force against demonstrators and arbitrary detentions – as well as illegitimate restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. No one has been held criminally responsible for any of these violations.”
According to Just Associates (JASS) more than half of the demonstrators protesting against the coup were women. A group called Feminists in Resistance was formed the same day of the coup in front of the presidential palace, marching under the slogan, “No coups and no violence against women.”
JASS describes the group: “Feminists in Resistance have maintained a permanent presence in all anti-coup proceedings and have organized their own actions by and for women, including sit-ins in front of the UN building, a march to the US Embassy, occupying the National Institute for Women building, visiting hospitals and detention centers, video recording demonstrations, sending out information bulletins in print and electronic form, documenting violations of women’s rights, and staging demonstrations to defy the curfew.”
Before the coup, some of the women that make up this Resistance group convinced Manuel Zelaya to veto a law that banned the emergency contraception pill, as 49-year-old feminist-in-resistance, Maria Amalia, proudly declares. But with a clear tone of sadness Maria Amalia adds, “As a result of the coup, there was a regression of all the things we had conquered and of everything we had accomplished as women.”
Women have been incarcerated, raped and murdered by the police and men who don’t want them engaging in political matters. Maria Amalia explains: “Before, our participation consisted of providing food for the men who protested. Today, our participation has been a lot more visible; we are in the streets with our voice.
“The men send us home and tell us that we have nothing to do there. They tell us that the street and protests are not for women. They tell us ‘why don’t you go raise your children?’ something we have been doing and still do even if we are on the streets expressing our political will.”
Echoing the call by Human Rights Watch and speaking on behalf of the Honduran Feminists in Resistance, Maria Amalia calls for the prosecution of human rights violations.
Just Associates — one of the few organizations advocating on this issue — takes donations through their website to help fund their efforts to assist these women as they seek justice.
Yet, everyone can help.
Just Associates’ representatives suggest contacting President Obama and the State Department to urge them to act and for people to call their local media outlets and insist they cover these stories — to elevate the voices of these women who must rely on the world to help them since their own country remains silent and blind.

Learn more about Silvia

Silvia Viñas is a freelance writer, journalist and blogger. She is the Latin American regional editor for Global Voices Online.
You can follow her on Twitter at @silviavinas.

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