More than a hundred regional and int'l organizations express solidarity with Karapatan officer, call for protection of WHRDs

More than a hundred organizations from various countries all over the world have endorsed a statement condemning the harassment against Karapatan officer and human rights defender Cristina Palabay. The solidarity initiative, led by the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), have garnered 114 endorsements. The groups reiterated that the attacks against Palabay is situated in a context of a worrying trend across the globe, wherein women human rights defenders (WHRDs) are targets of relentless and sexist attacks "under the banner of authoritarian governments".

On 10 December 2019, hours after demonstrations commemorating the 71st International Human Rights Day, Palabay received a call and a series of texts threatening her with death and the “worst possible things.”  In a follow-up text message, the caller, using the number +63 9275704471, threatened Cristina with rape and called her a prostitute. Prior to this, Karapatan likewise documented four other incidents of harassment against Palabay in 2019 alone, including a series of red-tagging by military officials in February 2019, a separate death threat in April 2019, and a trumped-up perjury case in June 2019.

Palabay is the current secretary general of Karapatan and a convenor of Tanggol Bayi-Philippines. She is also a Regional Council member of APWLD, a regional feminist, membership-based organization.

The statement linked the attack to the ongoing hostile environment for human rights and its defenders in the Philippines: Such an attack "is a common tactic present in all repressive and macho-fascist regimes in the world, but these only serve as a sign of insecure 'leadership' that is afraid of the voices of women and rights defenders."

The endorsing organizations further agree that "the rise of sexist threats, including messages that incite rape, are indications that women’s rights remain a consistent battleground, especially when our own governments perpetuate and tolerate such attacks against women human rights defenders.  We are gravely concerned about Cristina’s safety and demand a stop to these attacks against her."

The said solidarity statement likewise called out Armed Forces of the Philippines' Chief-of-Staff for Civil Military Operations Brig. General Antonio Parlade, Jr. for insinuating that the threats against Cristina are “made up” or that the attack is "her fault." According to the endorsing organizations, the actions and words of the military official is "exactly the typical narrative of victim-blaming that State officials have adopted to discredit and deny justice for victims of gender-based violence; in defense of the patriarchal and militarist system targeting defenders who continue to resist."

The statement concluded with a call for all WHRDs and defenders to speak out against the worsening objectification and intimindation of women and WHRDs. The groups likewise enjoined all to stand in solidarity with one another and build movements to make governments accountable. It was forwarded to several government offices, including the Office of the President, the Department of Justice, the Department of National Defense, and the Commission on Human Rights.

The endorsing organizations come from a diverse number of countries, including Thailand, Pakistan, Fiji, Bangladesh, Congo, Argentina, United Kingdom, Canada, Kyrgyztan, India, Taiwan, Nepal, Indonesia, United States, South Korea, Maldives, India, Mexico, Colombia, Australia, Uganda, Nepal, Hong Kong, Netherlands, and Portugal, among others.