De Lima seeks probe into summary killings of 17 women rights defenders

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With the incessant attacks against human rights defenders under the present administration, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima today called for a Senate investigation into the reported deaths of 17 women activists summarily killed amid the rash of extrajudicial killings in the country.

In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 573, De Lima said the State has an obligation to protect human rights defenders, especially those who were abused as a consequence of their gender and activism.

“Women human rights defenders are victims and potential targets of physical assault, sexual violence, misogynistic attack, and even death, all of which are forms of gender-based violence,” she said.

“They should be protected by all relevant agencies and mechanisms of government, by way of investigation and prosecution of those who may be liable for deaths, physical assaults, verbal violence, and other forms of abuses,” she added.

Human rights groups Tanggol Bayi and Karapatan confirmed that 17 women activists–most of whom were peasant leaders and members of various human rights advocate groups– were summarily killed under the Duterte administration.

Tanggol Bayi Convenor Gerifel Cerillo reportedly claimed that President Duterte’s words and actions are inciting State forces to commit further violence against human rights defenders, most of whom are women.

De Lima cited the Working Group’s Philippines’ Report for its 3rd cycle reporting in the Universal Periodic Review last May which recommended to member States in the Human Rights Council to combat crimes against human rights defenders.

According to her, the concern of United Nations member-states underscores the need to examine protection gaps for human rights defenders who deal with intersecting violations and discrimination especially compounded by their gender.

The Senator from Bicol urged her Senate colleagues to prioritize the issue concerning women rights defenders not only to stop the culture of violence in the country but also to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.

“We cannot allow misogynists in positions of power. As a public servant, it is our duty to promote gender equality and encourage all human beings to openly express their societal and political beliefs without being subjected to harassment,” she said.

Ratified by the Philippines on Aug. 5 1981, the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) obligates the State Parties, including the Philippines, to undertake legislative measures that will eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.

Under CEDAW, discrimination against women is defined as any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women on the basis of fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.

De Lima, who was recognized by Amnesty International as one of the notable Women Human Rights Defenders Under Threat, vowed to continue fighting against injustices while in detention despite the vicious gender-based attacks against her by the President and his lackeys.

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