Monday, June 29, 2009

The Face of Human Rights and Feminism: Melissa Roxas

Melissa Roxas' Press Conference: Statement by Melissa Roxas from Habi Arts on Vimeo.

Melissa Roxas is a Filipina US citizen. With family in Quezon City, she went to the Philippines to do research as a health volunteer for her writing project.

She is a writer. An activist. She was combining her commitment to human rights and social justice with her writing. It led her home to the Philippines where on May 19, 2009 she was captured and tortured for 6 days before being released.

In a press conference, she describes the abduction and torture she was subject to from the Philippine military.

Roxas is the first known US citizen to be abducted and tortured in the Philippines during the Obama administration and is seeking justice. The Arroyo presidency in the Philippines has overseen several hundred kidnapping, disappearances, torture, murder, and rape of activists, students, scholars, and educators in the name of the military which is funded by US dollars.

One year ago, I was with my family in Quezon City. I was doing research at local universities and non-profits to better understand the sexual violence against Filipino women in the Philippines. In my time there, the threat of abduction or torture was a far fear from my mind because, as everyone pointed out, I am a US citizen and, therefore, untouchable.

Roxas is the living proof that no one is untouchable and citizenship protects no one. Not even when you are doing research for a writing project. It does not protect you from beatings, being suffocated, tortured, blindfolded, or psychologically tortured.

There are no words to describe these on-going human rights violations in the Philippines. It is happening here, there, and no matter where you are, what your name is, violence, it seems, is only a knock on the door away from your house.

On a personal note, I am more than stunned by her account of what happened. Even as I write this, I don't quite know what to write except that her story needs to be told and spread far and wide. There is no way to describe the horror of what she went through. What I can do, what you can, at the very least, is listen and be informed.

This the face of human rights. This is the face of feminism. This if the front line of writers, volunteers, educators, and dreamers who want a world of peace and are willing to go to the ends of the earth to understand the reality of others. Melissa Roxas is the face.

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