Protection of Women Human Rights Defenders, An Imperative For The Achievement Of Equality

For Immediate Release

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There is no gender equality without protection for women defenders.

March 30, 2021- According to Global Witness, around the world, an average of four people each week have been killed since 2015 for speaking out against companies appropriating territories and wreaking havoc on the environment. Additionally, the most recent report from Frontline Defenders found that 28% of human rights defenders killed in 2020 worked for women’s human rights.

Dozens of organizations from different parts of the world committed to gender justice and protecting women’s lives and rights will bring this issue at the Generation Equality Forum and the Commission on Status of Women, on March 30th, 2021.

In a session titled “Protection of women human rights defenders, an imperative for the achievement of equality”, they will launch a set of urgent demands urging, “States, as well as relevant intergovernmental mechanisms and donors, immediately adopt a set of indispensable

The signatories include the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), CREA, Dutch Gender Platform (WO=MEN), Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos (IM-Defensoras), Just Associates (JASS), Madre, Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) WHRD Coalition, The Feminist Republik Platform, Urgent Action Funds as well as Women International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

These demands are outlined in a document titled “Indispensable Measures to Ensure the Holistic Protection and Leadership of Women Human Rights Defenders”. The document includes urgent demands of States and international mechanisms, and opens with a call to immediately halt the killings, criminalization, and hate campaigns against women human rights defenders (WHRDs). To the States, the demands are:

  • Ensure justice and accountability for all killings of WHRDs

  • Protect and promote a safe and enabling environment

  • Implement robust, permanent, effective, and holistic protection measures to WHRDs, even considering that the ones existing are not working.

  • Establish systems to track and register attacks against WHRDs

  • Dedicate particular attention to situations where the killing of a WHRD is connected to diverse identities at the intersection of misogyny, racism, classism, and other systems of oppression and violence that limit access to justice and protection;

The organizations call for the immediate release of all women political prisoners as well as protection for defenders who have been victims of forced displacement. They also demand that corporate actors “stop dispossessing communities, and killing and attacking WHRDs.”

The document concludes by calling for “urgent resources for the holistic protection of women defenders, and strategies for States to promote and recognize our work.”

An unsustainable situation of violence against women defenders

Representatives of the signatory organizations explain their decision to present this set of measures and demands because they are “..Alarmed by the devastating impacts of a system sustained by racism, patriarchy, ableism, and capitalism, which has created an unsustainable situation of violence against WHRDs, our organizations, and our communities; closure of spaces for participation in society; and an increasingly difficult environment to promote equality, peace, and justice.”

  1.  Global Witness (2020), “Defending Tomorrow: The climate crisis and threats against land and environmental defenders”, https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/environmental-activists/defending-tomorrow/ 
  2.  Frontline Defenders (2021), “Global Analysis 2020”, https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/sites/default/files/fld_global_analysis_2020.pdf