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Oral Statement on the Women Human Rights Defenders' Report of the UN Special Rapporteur

Posted on: Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Keywords: Africa, Latin America and Caribbean, Women Human Rights Defenders

The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders recently produced this report on the the situation of women human rights defenders. In response, the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, of which MADRE is a member, produced this statement that was read at the Human Rights Council. 

Front Line, on behalf of the Women Human Rights International Coalition,welcome the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders on women human rights defenders. Her report raises the seriousness of the violations against defenders of women’s human rights and gender equality particularly LGBTI defenders and advocates of sexual and reproductive rights. These defenders are particularly at risk, but often are not considered as human rights defenders entitled to support and protection.

Women human rights defenders have been persecuted because of their identities as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people or as women such as in the cases of femicide in Mexico and other Latin American countries. They are also targeted to challenge, often through violent means, the universality of the rights they advocate for as in the murder of David Kato in Uganda last 27 January. In light of these heightened risks, what measures are the member-states undertaking to adopt the Rapporteur’s recommendations and provide gender-responsive security and support to women human rights defenders?

Sex discrimination and gender inequality are at the heart of systemic violations against women human rights defenders. Assessment of best practices must include addressing systemic violations. As a follow up to this report and pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution 7/8 of 2008, how does the current Rapporteur plan “to integrate a gender perspective throughout the work of his/her mandate”? For example, the manipulative use of religion, culture or tradition to justify violations of women’s human rights has resulted in attacks against women human rights defenders. Would the Rapporteur consider a joint mission or other possible collaborations with the Independent Expert on Cultural Rights?

We commend the Rapporteur for bringing attention to non-state actors as perpetrators. In many cases, these actors act in complicity with the State, but they have also become all too powerful such as the paramilitaries, organized crime gangs, drug cartels, religious fundamentalists and other extremists that violently attack women human rights defenders. What measures have member-states undertaken to strengthen national mechanisms to protect women human rights defenders?

Reprisals against those cooperating with UN bodies continue, in some instances sanctioned by government officials. Yet, little progress has been made in developing an appropriate mechanism on reprisals. In spite of her efforts to cooperate with member-states, the Rapporteur called attention to the low level of responses to communications sent by her office. For her next term, what steps does the Rapporteur propose to encourage more responses from member-states? What initiatives have the Human Rights Council taken to address this and hasten the process of putting in place a mechanism to address reprisals against defenders engaging with the UN system?

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