With deep sadness and dismay, the PBI Honduras Project expresses regret at the loss of Gladys Lanza Ochoa, General Coordinator of the Visitacion Padilla Women’s Movement for Peace, “Las Chonas”, (Movimiento de Mujeres Por la Paz Visitación Padilla) and sends condolences to her family and loved ones.
Gladys had an inspiring career as a human rights defender in Honduras. She fought tirelessly for the rights of women (breaking the silence of impunity) and played a key role in the abolition of compulsory military service in the country.
For many years Gladys was exposed to numerous threats and attacks because of her work. However, this did not put a stop to her strong commitment to the causes which she defended.
The PBI Honduras Project had been accompanying Gladys since July 2015 in her activities and had discussed with various national and international authorities her delicate situation as a human rights defender. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) had also granted her precautionary protection measures. Despite this, security incidents and harassment continued against her.
Gladys had a criminal case brought against her by Juan Carlos Reyes, the director of the Foundation for the Development of Urban and Rural Social Housing in Honduras (Fundación para el Desarrollo de la Vivienda Social, Urbana y Rural de Honduras - FUNDEVI), as a result of statements she made in support of a woman who claimed to have experienced sexual and labour harassment at the hands of Juan Carlos Reyes, a public official and her supervisor at work.
As a result, in March 2015 Gladys was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the crime of defamation, with additional penalties of “special disqualification and civil interdiction”, which prevented her from working as director of her organisation. One month later, Gladys presented an appeal to the Supreme Court. Even though this appeal should have been resolved 60 days after it was submitted, the legal decision is still pending.
We know that Gladys’ legacy and memory will live on in the Honduran people and this will accompany us in our work to protect and defend human rights organisations. Her struggle is exemplary and encourages us to continue our work, to open up space for peace so that human rights defenders can carry out their work free from violence, retaliation, persecution and harassment.
We will always remember Gladys as a tireless fighter, full of optimism and energy. Thank you Gladys for the moments we were able to share with you. Your contribution to Honduran society and the world is an example worthy of our deep admiration.