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Killings, Disappearances, Recruitment of Children as Soldiers Go Unpunished

(Bogotá) – Armed groups have committed egregious abuses against Colombian and Venezuelan civilians as they fight for control in Catatumbo, northeastern Colombia, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The 64-page report, “…
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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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Women Tell Their Stories

Abortion in all instances, including rape, is illegal in Honduras. Any woman who has an abortion, and anyone found to have helped her, can be charged with a crime and imprisoned. For that reason, La Línea (“The Line”) was a rare resource in…
Lorena (a pseudonym) was unaware she was pregnant when she went to a hospital in intense pain two years ago. Doctors suspected she had attempted an abortion and called the police. She was taken from the hospital in handcuffs and is now facing charges.
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Cristina Alvarado is a social worker and part of the national coordination team of Movimiento de Mujeres por la Paz “Visitación Padilla” (Movement of Women for Peace “Visitacion Padilla”).
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Lawmakers Set to Discuss Loosening Notoriously Strict Anti-Abortion Law

This week, lawmakers in Honduras will have the chance to allow some women access to abortion, reversing restrictions first imposed more than 30 years ago. Under the current law, terminating a pregnancy is illegal and carries a heavy prison sentence,…
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Human Rights Watch is a nonprofit, nongovernmental human rights organization made up of roughly 400 staff members around the globe. Its staff consists of human rights professionals including country experts, lawyers, journalists, and academics of diverse…
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The rapid spread of the Zika virus has raised concern among public health officials across the Americas. The World Health Organization warned Sunday that the virus is likely to spread further across the region. At first glance,…
A woman walks away from her apartment as health workers fumigates the Altos del Cerro neighborhood as part of preventive measures against the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne diseases in Soyapango, El Salvador January 21, 2016.
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In 2011 an unknown attacker raped “Monica,” a human rights defender supporting victims displaced by the country’s protracted armed conflict. She immediately reported the rape to authorities, but they didn’t help her get access to health care. More than a…
A home in the rural area of Municipality San Carlos Antioquia abandoned by persons displaced by violence, with graffiti of a woman’s body left by armed groups.
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Last week, Colombia’s senate passed an important bill that is a major step in aiding and protecting sexual violence survivors – especially those who are raped or assaulted by guerillas, paramilitaries, Colombian forces, or others in the context of the…
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It’s an occupational hazard when you work on women’s rights, to routinely face women who have been subjected to unspeakable violence, horrible beyond anything you could imagine.  As a young lawyer in South Africa in the 1990s, one of first my clients was…
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“If I looked nice, he hit me,” Ana L., a mother of five in Colombia, told me. Ana (not her real name) detailed years of abuse by her partner. He beat her when she was pregnant, and hit her head so hard that she suffered permanent vision damage. She sought…
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Ensure Perpetrators Prosecuted, Health Services for Victims of Rape, Domestic Violence

(Washington, DC) – Colombia’s laws on violence against women are not adequately protecting victims displaced by the armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. Approximately two million internally displaced women and girls face…
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Rights Out of Reach Obstacles to Health, Justice, and Protection for Displaced Victims of Gender-Based Violence in Colombia Summary Obstacles to Medical Attention Obstacles to Justice…
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As Women Flee Violence in Rural Areas, Cities Offer No Safe Haven

I sat down with Mercedes on a sleepy afternoon in Medellin, Colombia. She was nervous. I was exhausted. Mercedes was my 60th interview with women and girls in Colombia – all of whom survived sexual or family violence, and all of whom had fled their close-…
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It’s the Americas’ largest reunion. Happening every three years, the Summit of the Americas brings together the heads-of-state of the region to talk about pressing concerns. Over the weekend in Cartagena, Colombia, the theme will be “Connecting the…
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Nomsa, a 20-year-old woman from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, showed me a scar on her thigh. She said it came from a wound inflicted by a nurse at a community health centre in 2010. The nurse, Nomsa said, used a pair of scissors "to make me open my legs…
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United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a simple but profound message in her United­ Nations speech in Geneva last week. Her message: human rights are indivisible and governments cannot selectively withhold rights. “Because we are human…