Today we celebrate International Women Human RightsDefenders Day. Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) are women who defendhuman rights, and all persons who defend the rights of women and girls and therights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. They are leaders in the protection of human rights,including in the areas of health, education, justice, employment, corporateaccountability and environmental protection, and ensure state and non-stateactors are held accountable for human rights violations and abuses.
However, instead of being applauded,encouraged and recognised as key agents of change, WHRDs more often than not areattacked, threatened, intimidated, imprisoned, harassed and even killed.Particularly, when WHRDs challenge gender stereotypes, structures of power andprofit, and patriarchal cultural and religious norms and values. For example,when they work on issues such as sexual and reproductive rights, violenceagainst women, transitional justice, environmental rights or indigenouspeople’s rights.
International WHRDs day has been celebrated since 2006.States’ international commitments to protect the rights of WHRDs to promote and protect humanrights stretch backeven further to theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Civiland Political Rights (1966), the International Covenant on Economic, Social andCultural Rights (1966), the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discriminationagainst Women (1979) and crucially, the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders(1998). Nonetheless, these rights have not been fully realised andaccountability for violations is worryingly insufficient.
It is urgent that governmentsaround the world publicly recogniseWHRDs as legitimate and vital actors in advancing the implementation of allhuman rights. They must also acknowledge and send a clear signal thatchallenging deep-seated, discriminatory and unjust patriarchal structures andgender stereotypes is crucial for the realisation of a peaceful and just worldwithout discrimination, oppression or exploitation.
Inorder for WHRDs to carry out their important work free from harassment,intimidation and violence, and to meaningfully participate in the developmentand monitoring of relevant policies and programmes for the advancement ofgender rights and the rights of women and girls, as well as social andenvironmental justice, all governments must:
- urgently put in place fully-resourced plans ofaction, including effective protection measures and impartial investigations to bring to justice those responsible for violence or threats; and
- establish and/orstrengthen national and regional laws in line with the UN Declaration on HumanRights Defenders, as well as international standards relating tonon-discrimination particularly based on sex, gender, sexual orientation.
On this day of mobilisation, we alsoask all state and non-state actors, from politicians to business leaders, aswell as ordinary citizens, to bring international attention to the followingurgent cases (which are representative of the challenges being faced by WHRDsworldwide) using their personal and professional platforms and channels:
1. Cristina Auerbach (Mexico): https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/cristina-auerbach
2. Ghada Jamsheer (Bahrain): https://action.manifesta.net/petitions/ask-the-king-of-bahrain-to-stop-persecuting-women-human-rights-defenders
3. Mozn Hassan, Azza Soliman and Drm Aida Seif ElDawla(Egypt): http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/egypt/2016/11/d24071/ and http://freeassembly.net/news/egypt-travel-bans/
4. Eren Keskin (Turkey): https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/take-action/w4r-turkey-eren-keskin/
5. Sirikan "June" Charoensiri (Thailand): http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/thailand/2016/10/d24026/
For furtherinformation, please contact the Women Human Rights Defenders InternationalCoalition (WHRD-IC) through our website: http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/contact/.