Women, mining, and sexual violence

 

Diana Sarosi is Manager of Policy & Advocacy at the Nobel Women’s Initiative, an organisation based in Canada that uses the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize to increase the power and visibility of women’s groups working globally for peace, justice and equality. In a recent conversation, in which we informed her of our upcoming conference, Diana talked to us about one of the biggest problems faced by women in the context of natural resourse extraction: sexual violence.

“Sexual violence against women is a very common tool used by mining companies to silence and terrorise local communities in Central America (Editor’s note: Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras),” explained Diana. “Our organisation tries to provide security for women but there is a lot of machismo, even inside the communities, and it is hard for women to denouce the abuses.”

“Despite the environment they live in,” she continues, “the women that we work with have shown great courage. They are rights defenders, not victims”. It’s not the first time that LAMMP hears of sexual violence against women linked to extractivism. During her recent visit to London, Yolanda Oqueli ­leader of La Puya anti­minining movement ­reported several cases in which women of the neighbouring villages had been sexually assaulted by men affiliated with mining companies. “It is quite common for mining companies in

Guatemala to hire former members of the army to patrol the sites,” explained Yolanda. “In number of cases they got really violent against the local population, especially women. In [the town of] San Rafael las Flores they broke into people’s houses, sacking the properties and raping women and girls.”

Sadly, the issue is not limited to Central America and doesn’t only affect human rights defenders.The most recent case comes from South Africa where a female mineworker was allegedly raped on the 8th of March at the Thembelani mine owned by Anglo American Platinum in Rustenburg. The National Working Commitee of the United Front condemned the violence by pointing out that the mining industry lacks of systematic ways to prevent, monitor abd record violence and discrimination against women in the sector.

 

(Article by Camilla Capasso)

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