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“Here's to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them”

Women’s Month in South Africa is celebrated in August. It commemorates the significant role held by women in South African society and celebrates the accomplishments of the 20,000 women who marched to the Union Buildings in August of 1956. The march…
A memorial sign surrounded with ribbons and flowers
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Environmental Groups Hope Case Will Force Government Action on Emissions

When you approach the town of Secunda in the coal-rich province of Mpumalanga in eastern South Africa, the toxic smell of air emanating from the cluster of coal-fired power stations hits you long-before before you see the town. I spent last week in…
Fence line communities near Duvha Power Station, Mpumalanga, South Africa. 
News

From Fighting Apartheid to Demanding Equality for Women and LGBT People

On August 9, 1956, 20,000 women of all races marched through the streets of Pretoria, South Africa in defiance of apartheid. They stood outside the Union Buildings, the government seat, protesting apartheid, and sang, “You strike a woman, you strike a…
Women march on the Union Buildings protesting apartheid in Pretoria, South Africa, August 9, 1956.
News

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic underlines the urgent need for safety nets for domestic workers.

Few workers have cause to celebrate May 1, International Workers' Day, this year. COVID-19 has been accompanied by another pandemic - of job loss and economic insecurity. Domestic workers, primarily women, have particularly precarious jobs and often do…
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Rofhiwa Mlilo is a 40-year-old single mother who sells sex for a living in a small town in South Africa. Unlike the alternative of picking fruit on local farms, sex work provides her with enough money to support her two children. Mlilo,…
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Criminalisation Harms Women, Fuels HIV Epidemic

South African authorities are compromising the safety and wellbeing of women and obstructing efforts to end the HIV pandemic by treating sex work as a crime, Human Rights Watch and the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT…
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  Summary Selling sex has been illegal in South Africa since at least the early 1900s and buying sex was criminalised in 2007. South African laws also prohibit other aspects of sex work, including running or owning a brothel, living off the…
News

Why Sex Work Should be Decriminalized

How did you find sex workers willing to talk about their work despite it being illegal in South Africa? It’s very difficult to gain sex workers’ trust without connections to people already actively supporting sex workers. For one, because their…
Sex workers wearing masks lead a march to mark International Sex Workers Rights Day in Johannesburg March 3, 2011
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South African authorities are compromising the safety and wellbeing of women and obstructing efforts to end the HIV pandemic by treating sex work as a crime, Human Rights Watch and the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) said in a report…
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(Dakar, June 26, 2019) – Jammeh is currently in Equatorial Guinea, where he sought exile after losing the 2016 presidential election to Adama Barrow. A Gambian Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) is documenting human rights violations…
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How Former President Jammeh Trapped, Raped, and Sexually Exploited Women

When did you first hear that Jammeh had raped and sexually assaulted women? The first stories surfaced when Human Rights Watch Senior Counsel Reed Brody and I started collecting evidence for the “Campaign to Bring Yahya Jammeh and his Accomplices to…
Fatou “Toufah” Jallow, May 25, 2019.
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Investigate Yahya Jammeh for Rape, Sexual Assault

(Dakar) – Three women have accused Gambia’s former president, Yahya Jammeh, of rape and sexual assault while he was in office, Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International said today. Former Gambian officials said that presidential aides regularly…
Fatou “Toufah” Jallow, May 25, 2019.
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Law Retains Death Penalty for Private Consensual Sex

Brunei should immediately repeal its newly enacted penal code, which violates a range of human rights, Human Rights Watch said today in an open letter to the sultan of Brunei and a report, “Brunei’s Pernicious New Penal Code.” …
The Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah listens during the first executive session of the CHOGM summit at Lancaster House in London, Thursday, April 19, 2018.
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Brunei’s Syariah Penal Code (2013) went into effect on April 3, 2019.[1] The new code poses grave threats to fundamental human rights and discriminates against the country’s most vulnerable groups, including children, women, and religious and sexual…
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Athletics Federation Rules Exclude Women with Intersex Variations from Competition

(New York) – The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has dismissed South African athlete Caster Semenya’s challenge to international athletics regulations which would see her compelled to undergo medical treatment or be forced out of competition.…
Caster Semenya of South Africa, Charlene Lipsey of the united States and Lynsey Sharp of Great Britain compete in the Women's 800 metres semi finals during day eight of the 16th IAAF World Athletics Championships London 2017
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Immediately Suspend Highly Abusive Law

(Kuala Lumpur) – The Brunei government’s introduction of a new Sharia penal code poses grave threats to basic rights, especially for the country’s most vulnerable people, Human Rights Watch said today. The penal code, which goes into effect…
The Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah listens during the first executive session of the CHOGM summit at Lancaster House in London, Thursday, April 19, 2018.
News

Landmark Rulings Protect Women and Communities Affected by Mining Companies

South Africa’s highest court has delivered two landmark decisions protecting women’s rights to equality and land ownership, as well as the rights of communities living in mining areas. The latest ruling ensured that an older…
Xolobeni community members and environmental activists march and chant slogans in front of South Africa's Pretoria High Court, April 24, 2018.