The internationally-acclaimed street artist Shepard Fairey has created a captivating new design exclusively for Amnesty International in its 50th year to support its global call to defend the rights of women and girls in Nicaragua.
Amnesty's campaign – entitled La Mariposa (Spanish for ‘butterfly') – encourages supporters around the world to create and send a colourful butterfly to women's rights groups in Nicaragua as a sign of solidarity with girls and women in the Central American country who are at risk of sexual violence and who are prevented from fully accessing their sexual and reproductive rights.
Shepard Fairey, who shot to fame after he created the iconic Barack Obama HOPE portrait during the 2008 US presidential elections, has produced a strikingly beautiful and uplifting image of the butterfly.
Every year, thousands of young girls and women in the Central American country are subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence, often from family members or men who are well known to the family. The rate of this violence is disturbingly high. According to official statistics, more than 14,000 cases were reported between 1998 and 2008. Two thirds of the victims were under the age of 17. These figures are all the more alarming given that in Nicaragua, rape and sexual abuse are under-reported crimes, especially if they include acts of incest.
Women are reluctant to report these crimes for fear of the stigma and shame attached to those who dare to speak of such violence. Regularly such women find themselves ostracised from their families and communities.
The butterfly is regarded by rights activists in Nicaragua as a symbol of the desire for girls and women to realise their dreams, to spread their wings and to fight with strength for their rights.
Shepard Fairey said:
Human Rights and equality are very important pillars of my philosophy. I am honoured to do what I can to support Amnesty in their continuous efforts. Everyone should live free from fear."
The trauma of sexual violence is exacerbated by the current law in Nicaragua which criminalises all abortions. The outright ban on abortions now compels women and girls – under threat of imprisonment – to continue with their pregnancy after being raped, even if the pregnancy poses a risk to their life or health.
Amnesty International's UK Director Kate Allen said:
“We're delighted that Shepard Fairey has offered his time and outstanding talent to this important global campaign. Shepard's work is respected worldwide and visual art can play an important role in amplifying human rights concerns.
“The present situation for women and girls in Nicaragua is shocking. This is why we need as many voices as possible around the world to demand these women's rights. We want to see men and women join Shepard Fairey and the thousands of other Amnesty supporters in taking action to defend these rights.”
Notes to the Editor
1. The butterflies will be used by demonstrators on 28 September – the annual Day for the decriminalisation of abortion in Latin America. They will also be displayed in women's centres across Nicaragua. To find out more about Amnesty International's La Mariposa campaign, visit www.amnesty.org.uk/butterfly
2. Others who have taken part in the Butterfly campaign include news broadcaster and journalist Jon Snow and celebrated singer-songwriter and musician Moby.
3. Amnesty International marks its 50th year this year with a series of global campaigns which will run until June 2012. La Mariposa is the first of a series to celebrate its 50th anniversary.