SDIR Committee News Release
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Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
Sous-comité des droits internationaux de la personne du Comité permanent des affaires étrangères et du développement international
For immediate release
Women Human Rights Defender Award
Ottawa, March 01, 2021 -
On 8 March 2021, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the House of Commons (the Subcommittee) will host a recognition ceremony for three remarkable women who have devoted their lives to defending human rights.
The Subcommittee has chosen to recognize women human rights defenders (WHRDs) because in their fight for the rights of all people they face an added risk posed by their gender. As noted in the Subcommittee’s 2019 report, Raising her Voice: Confronting the Unique Challenges Facing Women Human Rights Defenders, WHRDs:
face the risk of sexual assault, threats to their family and efforts to smear their reputations, often based on gender stereotypes. They face threats and resistance not only from the targets of their activism such as the state or the private sector, but also from their own communities and families. These WHRDs are often failed by state institutions. Political institutions can be hostile to women in many respects, and impunity for crimes committed against WHRDs often prevails. In many places where civil society is under threat, women-led organizations are particularly vulnerable to state pressure. WHRDs who face intersecting forms of discrimination, such as indigenous or LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersex) persons, are at even greater risk.
During the course of its studies, the Subcommittee meets regularly with WHRDs. All of them are inspiring and deserving of recognition. Selecting only three was a challenging process. The Subcommittee, however, unanimously agreed that the following women are a testament to the extraordinary sacrifices that WHRDs make in defence of human rights:
• Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iran, human rights lawyer – because of her defence of human rights she was arrested and sentenced in March 2019 to 148 lashes and 38 years in prison.
• Loujain Al-Hathloul, Saudi Arabia, women’s rights activist – after her May 2018 arrest in Saudi Arabia because of her active campaigning for women’s right to drive and denunciation of torture in prison, she was convicted on 28 December 2020 of seeking to change the Saudi political system and harming national security. Though she was sentenced to five years and eight months imprisonment, she was released on 10 February 2021.
• Tamara Adrian, Venezuela, human rights and LGBTQI activist – a former elected legislator, she has been a human rights activist in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community in Venezuela and Latin America for decades.
This will be the second time the Subcommittee hosts a recognition ceremony for WHRDs. In February 2019, the Subcommittee agreed that it would host this event annually, when possible. This year’s ceremony will take place virtually, on International Women’s Day, Monday, 8 March 2021, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. via the House of Commons Zoom platform.
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