29 December 2022

Climate Crisis and Protection of Women Human Rights Defenders and the Environment

Illustration of a female-driven demonstration. Credit: Michelle Ding/Unsplash

The world commemorates 25 November as the Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, continuing until 10 December which is Human Rights Day (HAM). For 16 days, an intensive international campaign was carried out to encourage efforts to eliminate violence against women throughout the world. It is hoped that this momentum will encourage all stakeholders to ensure the protection of victims of violations as well as human rights defenders.

“The world is facing three major life-threatening crises: climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. Whether we admit it or not, these crises are caused by destructive and exploitative human activities,” wrote environmental activist and Executive Director of Satya Bumi, Annisa Rahmawati.

Titled “Climate Crisis and Protection of Women Human Rights Defenders and the Environment”, Annisa’s opinion piece was published on the Kompas Daily page on December 3, 2022. Along with this opinion, is an illustration depicting a pulpit wrapped in barbed wire. The crisis, he wrote, causes the threat of the loss of citizens’ access to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment – as an integral part of universal human rights listed in United Nations resolutions.

On July 28, the UN General Assembly issued a resolution recognizing the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal human right. The resolution was reached thanks to the support of 161 countries. As many as 8 other countries abstained.

Through resolutions, the United Nations recognizes the impacts of climate change, unsustainable management and use of natural resources, air, soil and water pollution and loss of biodiversity. Confession is an extension of three major world crises – emergencies that Annisa mentioned as the opening of her opinion piece.

In this crisis situation, the existence and struggle of human rights defenders and the environment is very crucial to ensure the creation of environmental and human justice. Governments in various countries often focus on strengthening economic growth.

Such a focus is accompanied by the opening of investment faucets on a large scale which, not infrequently, pays little attention to the balance of aspects between development, social justice and natural sustainability. At the same time, human rights activists continue to fight for the right to the environment. Observed from the gender context, women are in a vulnerable position to become victims. That is why, writes Annisa, a legal instrument is needed that also mainstreams gender sensitivity.

When men relinquish communal rights over forests, women as the main actors in the family will lose access to forests which are the source of food for their families. These forms of discrimination are driven by systemic and power inequalities due to the entrenched patriarchal culture in Indonesia.

Women who defend their rights to land, territorial territories, and rights related to the environment are often harmed by their activism. Women are neglected and excluded from land ownership, negotiation within the community, and decision-making about the future of their land. The protection instrument is expected to create a climate of democracy and law enforcement as well as encourage access to a clean and healthy environment for a more just and sustainable future for Indonesia.


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