Women’s and gay rights violated under guise of counter-terrorism says UN envoy

Some governments’ broad counter-terrorism laws are punishing women and gays and suppressing groups pushing gender equality, a U.N. envoy of human rights and counter-terrorism said on Monday.

Many of these people are caught between being victims of extremist groups and victims of counter-terrorism measures, said Martin Scheinin, a U.N. special rapporteur on promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.

“There’s been a lot of progress in acknowledging terrorism can most effectively be fought with compliance with human rights, nevertheless there’s still a lot to do,” Scheinin, who is appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council, told reporters.

Scheinin drew examples of gender-based rights violations stemming from counter-terrorism laws from previous reports.

He said in Algeria women had been arrested and accused of being extremists after they reported sexual violence by armed Islamists, while in Nepal transgender people attacked by insurgents were also targeted by police under the guise of counter-terrorism.

Palestinian women suffered because Israeli checkpoints delayed them reaching hospitals, said Scheinin.

Tightened immigration in many countries raised the possibility of asylum seekers, often women, being accused of providing “material support” to extremists when instead they were victims, he said.

“The breadth of Governments’ counter-terrorism measures have resulted in significant gender-based human rights violations,” he wrote in latest report to the United Nations.

“In many instances, governments have used vague and broad definitions of ‘terrorism’ to punish those who do not conform to traditional gender roles and to suppress social movements that seek gender equality in the protection of human rights.”

Scheinin also raised concerns about the use of rape and other forms of gender-based violence during the interrogation of suspects and the use of profiling.

“Women fall double victims of such profiling practices, first because terrorist organizations, in order to avoid the profile of authorities, may force women or recruit women to become a new wave of suicide bombers,” Scheinin said.

“Second when states detect this they may target women or specific groups of women such as pregnant women as perceived suicide women because of how they dress and look,” he said.

Scheinin made 17 recommendations to U.N. member states.

Among those he said countries should give more attention to gender sensitive reparation schemes for victims of terrorism and should not detain and ill-treat women and children in order to push them to reveal information on male family members.


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