November 2019

  • Truth Under Siege

    Image from Hong Kong, Chi Keung Wong 

    A police officer points his gun at journalists in Mong Kok—a major shopping area in Kowloon, Hong Kong—during ongoing protests in October 2019. The protests began in opposition to a proposed law that would allow extradition to mainland China, but have since evolved to calls for democracy and investigations into excessive use of force by police. Protesters are fighting to maintain the rights and freedoms in Hong Kong as mainland China seeks to expand its influence and control.

    As the protests continue in Hong Kong, journalists are facing increasing hostility and law enforcement action. Several journalists have been arrested and many more injured. One journalist was permanently blinded after being hit by a rubber bullet fired by a police officer at relatively short range; she was standing with other journalists with high-visibility press markings, filming the protests from an overpass. The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) noted that press freedom has reached a new low, limiting journalists’ ability to cover stories and therefore the public’s ability to stay informed. The HKJA filed a judicial review against the police force for obstructing journalists and use of excessive force. Many other media and human rights organizations outside of Hong Kong have called on law enforcement to cease targeting of journalists and to respect free speech and the open media.

  • Paint-Splattered Police

    Image from Hong Kong, Jared Stone 

    This photograph shows police officers in riot gear taking a defensive stance outside of a local police station in Mong Kok—a major shopping area in Kowloon, Hong Kong. One police officer has been covered with red paint, used symbolically by protestors to decry police brutality and the excessive use of force.

    The protests in Hong Kong have been ongoing since June 2019. While the protests were sparked by a single issue – widespread opposition to a proposed law that would allow extradition to mainland China – government and law enforcement response to the protests has enflamed civil action. In addition to the withdrawal of the extradition bill, protestors demand the government grant amnesty for all protestors, introduce universal suffrage, and launch an inquiry into police misconduct over the course of the protests. The police have been accused of obstruction, evidence tampering, and the use excessive force. More than 4,400 people have been arrested, and several thousand injured.

  • Stolen Childhood

    Image from Turkey, Volkan Özcan

    This photograph shows a young girl about to be married in Turkey. Child marriage – where one or both parties to a marriage are below the age of 18 – disproportionately affects girls. Girls with little education and those living in poverty are especially likely to be married as children. Rates of child marriage have been declining over the past years, but progress is inconsistent and slow. Each year, 12 million girls below the age of 18 are married around the world– that is 23 girls married every minute.

    Child marriage is a direct violation of children’s rights and puts them at greater risk for a host of challenges. Girls who are married as children are subject to child rape and sexual slavery and are denied their rights to live free from violence and exploitation. Girls under the age of 15 who become pregnant are five times more likely to die in childbirth than adult women. Babies born to girls under 18 are also 60% more likely to die in their first year. Children married at a young age are often unable to pursue education, entrenching them in poverty and keeping them reliant on their spouse.

    While child marriage is more common in developing countries, many developed countries also allow child marriage; between 2000 – 2015, more than 200,000 children were legally married in the United States.

  • Not One More Drop of Indigenous Blood

    Image from Brazil, Laycer Tomaz de Magalhães

    Three indigenous women, Sonia Guajajara, Celia Xakriabá, and Watatakalu Walapipiti, participate in the First March of Indigenous Women in Brasilia, Brazil in August 2019. The march was held to demonstrate the key role indigenous women leaders have in protecting their communities, and to protest the policies of the new Bolsanaro government that harm indigenous peoples and their lands.

    Since President Jair Bolsonaro’s inauguration in January 2019, he has come under fire for violating indigenous sovereignty and land rights. The touchstone of this conflict has been Bolsonaro’s push to clear and develop parts of the Amazon rainforest to exploit its rich natural resources. The Amazon is home to over one million indigenous people divided among more than 400 tribes, and the forest and its resources are the foundation of many of these tribes’ survival and cultural traditions. Activists allege that President Bolsonaro’s public statements pushing for greater economic development in the Amazon have encouraged illegal loggers and miners to invade indigenous territories, causing not only environmental devastation and exacerbating climate change, but also leading to violence against land defenders. Several indigenous leaders have been killed in the confrontations, and advocates warn that Bolsonaro’s statements in favour of development will increase the frequency and scale of such violence.

  • Organ Bazaar

    Image from India, Gonçalo Fonseca

    Dayvi *, lives in Chennai in South India. She sold her kidney in 2016 for about 1 lakh rupees (US$1,400); her kidney was later sold on the black market. She was flown to a surgical centre in Sri Lanka where it was cheaper to remove her kidney. Dayvi has not seen a doctor since the operation, and three years later she is in constant pain and cannot work or lift heavy weights.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, around the world, an organ is sold every hour, and kidneys comprise an estimated 75% of the black market in human organs and an estimated 5-10% of all kidney transplants. In India alone, 150,000-200,000 people are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, but less than 4% ultimately receive one. South Asia is the centre of black market organ transplants, where more than 2,000 Indians sell their kidneys annually. Kidney donors – especially those in developing countries – often do so out of desperation and extreme poverty. While kidney donation can be done safely, many donors in the black market are not treated according to best practices. Reports by the WHO show that black market donors have lower survival rates, and the majority of donors live with ongoing complications that negatively impact their day-to-day lives.

  • Chile Stands Strong

    Image from Chile, Duncan Tafel

    This photograph from October 2019 shows protests in the Plaza Italia, in Santiago, the capital of Chile, moments before it was disrupted by police forces using tear gas and rubber bullets.

    Protests in Santiago began in October 2019, initiated by youth in response to increases in public transit fares. Government attempts to mitigate unrest by declaring a state of emergency and imposing a curfew were met with growing civil disobedience and civil action. Over the following weeks, due in part to the President’s response, the protests expanded to other cities throughout Chile and grew to include public grievances on widespread poverty and massive inequality. Chile’s income gap is 65% wider than the OECD average, and privatized education, health care, and pension systems place additional burdens on already impoverished Chileans.

    Media outlets and human rights organizations – both within and outside Chile – have condemned the police response for using unnecessary and excessive force. Since the protests began, more than 7,000 protesters have been detained, over 2,300 injured, and 23 killed.