Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, A/66/203, 28 July 2011
7. In accordance with the mandate of the Special Rapporteur to integrate a gender perspective throughout her work, the present report refers to the specificities of the situation of women human rights defenders and the particular challenges they face. Women defenders are more at risk of being subjected to certain forms of violence, prejudices, exclusion, repudiation and other violations, than their male counterparts. This is often due to the fact that women defenders are perceived as challenging accepted socio-cultural norms, traditions, perceptions and stereotypes about femininity, sexual orientation and the role and status of women in society. The term “women human rights defenders” in the present report refers to women who, individually or in association with others, act to promote or protect human rights, including women’s rights. The term “women human rights defenders” can also refer to male human rights defenders working on women’s rights as well as on gender issues more generally.
II. RIGHT TO BE PROTECTED
17. In every region of the world, defenders – including women defenders and those working on women’s rights or gender issues – continue to face intimidation, threats, killings, disappearances, torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, surveillance, administrative and judicial harassment and, more generally, stigmatization by both State and non-State actors. Violations faced by women defenders may take a gender-specific form, ranging from verbal abuse based on their sex, to sexual abuse and rape. Defenders also confront violations of the exercise of their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, access to information, access to funding, free movement and freedoms of association and peaceful assembly. In many countries, a climate of impunity for violations committed against defenders prevails.
18. Specific situations impeding the work of human rights defenders and leading to a highly insecure environment include: (a) The stigmatization to which both women defenders and their male counterparts are subjected in certain contexts, including accusations of being fronts for guerrilla movements, terrorists, political extremists, separatists, or working on behalf of foreign countries or their interests. Also, women defenders often face further stigmatization by virtue of their sex or the gender-based rights they advocate
19. In addition, community leaders and faith-based groups are increasingly resorting to the stigmatization of — and attacks against — defenders working on issues such as the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgenderpersons, violence against women and domestic violence. Also, women human rights defendersworking in the area of domestic violence and other types of violence against women are often pressured by family members or threatened by the perpetrators to drop cases.
VII. RIGHT TO PROTEST
55. Violations suffered by defenders as a consequence of their participation in protests range from threats following demonstrations to arbitrary arrest and detention, intimidation, ill-treatment, torture and excessive use of force by authorities. A cause for concern is the number of peaceful protesters who have been injured or killed during violent crackdowns by the authorities. The mandate holder has also identified specific protection needs concerning some groups of protestors, including women defenders and defenders working on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights; student activists; trade unionists; and defenders monitoring and reporting on demonstrations. Defenders engaged in protests linked to demands for democratic reforms; the anti-globalization movement; election processes; peace demonstrations; and land rights, natural resources and environmental claims are often in need of specific protection
VIII. RIGHT TO DEVELOP AND DISCUSS NEW HUMAN RIGHTS IDEAS
56. The right to develop and discuss new human rights ideas is enshrined in the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders as an important provision for the ongoing development of human rights. This right may be seen as an elaboration of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to freedom of assembly and the right to freedom of association, which are protected under many regional and international instruments.11 The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders affirms the right to develop and discuss new human rights ideas, and to advocate their acceptance in Article 7
57. Many of the basic human rights that today we take for granted took years of struggle and deliberation before they took final shape and became widely accepted. A good example is the long struggle of women in many countries to gain the right to vote. Today, we see the case of defenders working on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. In many countries around the world, these activists are targeted for their work, harassed, and sometimes killed, because of their work in defending a different idea of sexuality. Similarly, women human rights defenders are more at risk of suffering certain forms of violence because they are perceived as challenging accepted socio-cultural norms, traditions, perceptions and stereotypes about femininity, sexual orientation and the role and status of women in society.
XII. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMMENDATIONS
Right to Protest
111. States are encouraged to take the following measures to address the protection needs of the following groups of defenders:
(b) Defenders working on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights:
- Hold accountable authorities taking unlawful decisions banning demonstrations;
- Ensure the protection of participants in gay pride parades before, during and after marches from violence by counter-protestors;
- Train law enforcement officials on appropriate conduct, particularly in relation to the implementation of the non-discrimination principle and respect for diversity
Right to develop and discuss new ideas
114. States should take additional measures to ensure the protection of defenders who are at greater risk of facing certain forms of violence because they are perceived as challenging accepted socio-cultural norms, traditions, perceptions and stereotypes about femininity, sexual orientation and the role and status of women in society.
Link to full text of the report: Report-SR Human Rights Defenders-2011-eng