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Human Rights Council: Geneva, 27th Session – 15 September, 2014

Annual Discussion, Integration of a Gender Perspective

Statement from the following organizations:

Amnesty International, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, Association for Progressive Communications, Association for Women’s Rights in Development, Center for Reproductive Rights, Coalition of African Lesbians, International Service for Human Rights, Just Associates, MADRE, Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, Women’s Rehabilitation Center- Nepal, World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)*

Distinguished delegates and panelists,

ISHR makes this statement on behalf of members of the Women Human Rights Defender International Coalition, an international network of women’s rights, human rights and sexual rights organizations. We address this simple fact: in the global North and South alike, women human rights defenders are targeted for murder, kidnapping, torture, rape, and harassment because of who we are and because of the work we do. As the Council strengthens its work on women generally, we note the critical need to integrate analysis and reporting on women human rights defenders who demand protection, respect and fulfillment of all human rights.

This integration called for in Resolution 6/30 requires commitment and rigor alongside sharp and sensitive gender analysis, deep political will, and meaningful resource allocation. The best work requires listening to women’s voices, a feminist consciousness, naming and confronting patriarchy and a commitment to address intersectional factors that place defenders at, or protect them from risk. It is unacceptable that women human rights defenders are either not addressed at all or often among the first to fall off the radar of those within governments and within UN mechanisms and activities.

We recommend that those doing country work within the Human Rights Council:

1. Proactively ask new and different questions, and seek relevant input to build a richer analysis in enhancing a gender perspective in any and all agenda items of the Council.

2. Proactively seek information from and meet with women human rights defenders, especially those who may be hidden, such as defenders in women’s groups, unions, environmental, minority and Indigenous groups, and in those groups that work on sexuality and gender including on abortion, on rights related to HIV/ AIDS, sex work, and on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

3. Commit to documenting women human rights defenders’ situations with sensitivity and nuance.

4. Take into account which women human rights defenders are not represented in the analysis and what political pressures might account for this.

5. Ensure the experiences of women human rights defenders are integrated throughout all stages of research and reporting, not as a last minute isolated add on.

6. Address the contexts that affect gender in country specific work, including increased militarization, increased fundamentalisms of all kinds, including in religious and economic areas, negative ramifications of globalization, crises of democracy and also the restrictive effects of the heteronormativity and patriarchy that confine women’s choices.

7. Look at the law and look beyond the law. Look at reality: even where legal safeguards exist, women human rights defenders experience violations because of de facto discrimination and actions based on misogynist harmful stereotypes.

8. Recognize that there may be reprisals against those who contribute to this work. Take adequate measures to protect from reprisals those who engage with the Council’s work. Should reprisals occur, ensure that the allegations are promptly investigated.

9. Learn from what has worked well in past efforts to integrate a gender perspective and commit to doing better work every time you have the opportunity.

10. Stand by your gender sensitive research, and documentation. Resist efforts, wherever they come from, to dilute or erase this information.

These commitments will help the Human Rights Council’s mechanisms to do justice to the courage and strength of women human rights defenders around the world. The risks we take to demand justice and rights warrant no less.

Thank you.

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