The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) is a resource and advocacy network for the protection and support of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) worldwide. Coming at a time when WHRDs have received little attention in the human rights arena, the Global Report on the Situation of WHRDs plays a crucial part in advancing the recognition of WHRDs.

The Global Report gives a contextual analysis of the environment in which WHRDs work and the violations they face because of their gender and/or work defending women's rights and sexual rights. While WHRDs face a number of similar violations as other defenders, it is essential to recognize the gendered consequences of violations for WHRDs. The risks faced by WHRDs are increased because there is no systematic documentation of the gender-specific nature and manifestations of the violence and violations of their rights. The Global Report begins to rectify this by drawing on individual and collective analysis of WHRD IC members during the life of the Coalition, which began in 2005. The analysis is informed by five key phenomena –fundamentalisms; militarization and situations of conflict; globalization; crises of democracy or governance; and heteronormativity.

In keeping with feminist principles of research, the methodology of this report has placed the WHRDs’ analysis of their own experience atthe heart of the inquiry. WHRDs themselves draw out contextual elements they consider most telling in providing obstacles to their work.

The Global Report uses 43 cases studies that illuminate specific trends and experiences of WHRDs. The case studies also surface connections between context, identities of WHRDs and violations experienced. The use of the cases examples provide a vivid glimpse of the landscape in which WHRDs live and work.

The Global Report not only demonstrates the evolution of our articulation of challenges to WHRDs and the source of these challenges, but also how best to respond to them.

Strategies implemented to protect WHRDs at risk are explored, as well as strategies to address the structural challenges that WHRDs face in their lives and work. This dual approach is necessary to guarantee protection of WHRDs in the long-term and is critical to gender equality. Fundamentally WHRDs themselves must be engaged in the design and implementation of protection strategies to ensure that they are effective as possible, recognizing that defenders themselves are the expert on their own needs.

The findings of the report include the imperative to improve the under-developed documentation to systemically track cases of WHRDs. From the experience of producing the Global Report as well as the observations of the WHRD IC over the past few years, it is clear that reliable quantitative information regarding WHRDs and the contexts in which they work, is rarely available. Given that the protection of WHRDs, along with all human rights defenders, is enshrined in the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the fundamental freedoms guaranteed under international human rights law, they cannot remain invisible.

It is intended that the Global Report is primarily an advocacy and capacity building tool, both important measures for WHRDs’ protection and the prevention of further abuses. The Global Report is a contribution to the ongoing documentation of the situation of WHRDs that will enable informed advocacy from the local to regional and international level.

The WHRD IC is a resource and advocacy network for the protection and support of women human rights defenders worldwide. The Coalition calls attention to the recognition of women human rights defenders. It asserts that those advocating for women's human rights - no matter what gender or sexual orientation they claim - are in fact human rights defenders. Their gender or the nature of their work has made them the subject of attacks, requiring gender-sensitive mechanisms for their protection and support. The Coalition involves women activists as well as men who defend women's rights and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) defenders and groups committed to the advancement of women's human rights and sexual rights.

 

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