Criminalization of Women Defenders in Honduras 2015-2016

National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Honduras - In Honduras, the compilation of precise information on the criminalization of women defenders is yet to be accomplished. Certain cases are well-known, some are emblemàtic, others recent, and yet others involve new attempts at criminalization. In 2015, one of the most emblemàtic cases is that of defender Liliam Borjas of the National Council of Rural Workers (CNTC), who is accompanied by the National Defenders Network. Liliam has been criminalized since 2012 by large landowners around her community for the alleged crime of “usurpation” (land takeovers) and is constantly subjected to threats and harassment by them. Last July, the Network began to accompany those targetted in another case that has received widespread media coverage, that of the Juan Almendares Campesino Group, which has been criminalized in Santa María, La Paz. In this case, women defenders María Melecia Hernández, Norma Suyapa Herrera, Zonia Isabel Galeas, Geraldina Santos Hernández and María Emerita López, along with other comrades and family members, suffered police repression and were deprived of their freedom despite the absence of a preliminary investigation. They are accused of the alleged offense of “usurpation” by large landowners in the La Paz province.

Zonia Gáleas, Gerardina Santos and Norma Herrera were deprived of their freedom from July 17 to September 21, 2015. In the penitentiary at Márcala, they were subjected to conditions of overcrowding, where they had no bed and were forced to sleep on the floor. They had to sleep and eat in the bathroom area and were provided no personal hygiene or cleaning products for use in their daily lives, which exacerbated the precarious conditions faced by their famílies. Moreover, for being campesina women defenders of the right to land, they suffered constant discrimination by the prison authorities, who called them “usurpers and land robbers”.

These defenders suffered severe physical, emotional and psychological repercussions brought on by their eviction, capture and deprivation of freedom. María Emerita López, one of the defenders, was pregnant at the time of the eviction and deprived of her freedom for 22 days in the aforementioned conditions. As a result, her pregnancy came to an end. This entire situation of criminalization and defamation resulted in negative econòmic consequences for the defenders and their famílies. They were unable to tend to their crops and, after alternative measures were imposed, had to travel to another township once a week to sign a paper in the court, which generated expenditures with no income provided to cover them.

In 2016, we have accompanied women defenders criminalized in hundreds of cases, including Orbelina Flores, a member of the Permanent Human Rights Observatory of Aguan (OPDHA) and Carolina Castillo of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH).

Orbelina Flores, reported six incidents to the National Human Rights Network in 2015, most of which were threats and acts of intimidation from neighbors in her community close to members of her organization. Carolina Castillo was subjected to three incidents in 2015, which were related to her struggle in defense of territory and involved acts of intimidation, psychological harassment, attacks on her cultural patrimony and threats on her life.


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