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Posted by: Yahairah Aristy on Apr 8, 2021

In a decision published on April 7, 2021, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UN CEDAW) determined that Libya violated the human rights of Magdulein Abaida, a human rights activist. While the 25-year-old was taking part in a workshop on women’s rights in the city of Benghazi on August 9, 2012, a militia group forced her to leave and arrested her. While “detained” she was physically beaten, threatened with death, harassed, and insulted. She was interrogated because of her translation work for a journalist, who was making a documentary about women’s rights in Libya.  Five days later she was released. In September 2012, she was forced to give up her nonprofit organization work promoting women’s rights because of hate mail and death threats from the public. 

She filed her complaint with UN CEDAW, which monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Convention) adopted by the United Nations in 1879. One hundred eighty nine nations have agreed to be bound by the provisions of the Convention—disappointingly, the Unites States is one of the six UN members that has not, along with Iran, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, and Tonga. Interestingly, the Republic of China, a non-member of the UN, has ratified the Convention in its legislature. 

The UN CEDAW invited Libya to respond four times between 2018 – 2020; Libya did not respond. Finding a human rights violation, the UN CEDAW requested that Libya ensure accountability and provide reparations for Abaida, and also issued recommendations to address gender-based violence against women by public officials and non-state actors. 

Let us reflect on our own freedom to be or not to be a women’s rights activist.


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