Against Involuntary

Empower the Women-Victims, End Impunity for Enforced Disappearance

Today, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) joins the world in celebrating the 101st anniversary of the International Women’s Day. The AFAD as a regional federation of eleven member-organizations from different Asian countries pays tribute to all women and their indispensable role in society particularly in the struggle to end enforced disappearances worldwide.

Enforced disappearance is considered one of the cruelest forms of human rights violations. It is a multiple and continuous violation of the basic human rights of the direct victims and their families especially the women. Wives, mothers and daughters of the disappeared bear the consequences of the enforced disappearances. The uncertainty of knowing the fate and whereabouts of their disappeared loved ones is already an agonizing and torturous ordeal. It viciously places them in a perpetual limbo of hope and despair. Many of them suffer from economic hardship and insecurity as the disappearance of their men who are mostly breadwinners left them destitute and barely capable of tending the needs of their families. In South Asian context, they are called “half-widows” for lack of adequate legal status which deprives them of their other basic rights. Women who are themselves victims of enforced disappearance are more vulnerable to sexual and other forms of violence.

However, far from being helpless victims of injustice, women family members of the disappeared in all corners of the world have shown high degree of courage and resilience even in the face of threats and constant risks. Despite being clueless of their loved ones’ whereabouts, they incessantly open every door that may lead them not only in their search for truth and justice but to end more sufferings.

The members of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, for example, have given a face and voice to the thousands of faceless and voiceless victims of enforced disappearance.

For a long time, the lack of any specific mechanism that could protect individuals from enforced disappearance engenders impunity and constitutes a gap in international law. But the enduring struggle of the families of the disappeared which mostly comprise women has eventually led to the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2006 by the United Nations General Assembly and entered into force on 23 December 2010. To date, this international human rights instrument has 92 signatories and 31 States Parties.

Today, as we give honor to all women especially those who have struggled and have faced great odds in the efforts to know the truth and seek justice, we reiterate our call on all states to sign and ratify the UN Convention For the Protection of All Persons From Enforced Disappearance and also to take effective steps to implement it. It is a primary state obligation to guarantee the right of every person not to be subjected to enforced disappearance and the rights of victims and their families to justice and to reparation. Although laws and institutional mechanisms can help address and prevent future human rights violations, only the empowered citizens, women especially who know their basic right and are willing to defend it can make a big difference in making a world free from violence and abuses.


Chairperson Secretary-General


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