The English version of this press release is available on AWID.
“The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights followed up the events of March the 8th on the occasion of International Women’s Day in a great worry. The celebration events started with an initiative of young women and men who gathered in Al Tahrir Square in order to salute female and male martyrs of the Revolution as well as their mothers and to remind the society and decision makers with the necessity of involving women in phases of the democratic transition in Egypt.
ECWR participated in supporting this initiative; for female and male activists went to the Square and then a group of oppositionists surrounded them to discuss their demands. The gathering reflected at the beginning a civilized way of discussion; however, a number of thugs gathered pretending opposition then it turned to be attack on women and men activists by beating and sexual harassment…
There’s been a lot of talk lately about women in journalism facing risks their male colleagues don’t. (Even us female bloggers face more threats and intimidating comments than our male counterparts.) And, similar to female journalists, women human rights defenders face risks and attacks that are specific to their gender. I went to Guatemala on a human rights delegation and witnessed this first hand. Most of the women working in domestic violence (for instance Norma Cruz, recipient of the Women of Courage award), violence against women, and women’s issues/rights had received death threats or were attacked (either their person or their office was attacked). Here’s a recent report announced on AWID that provides more details:
The report affirms that “women defenders are more at risk of suffering certain forms of violence and other violations, prejudice, exclusion, and repudiation 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 risks and violations reported in the period 2004-2009 include (a) threats, death threats and killings; (b) arrest, detention, and criminalization; (c) stigmatization; and (d) sexual violence and rape. Some of the striking findings include:
- “An alarming number of women human rights defenders and their relatives have paid the highest price for their work.” There were 39 communications to the Rapporteur regarding killings and 35 communications regarding attempted killings.
- Defenders in the Americas are most likely to face threats, death threats, killings and attempted killings; more than half the communications relating to death threats concerned defenders working in the Americas, highlighting Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Honduras, and Peru. “Among the groups which appear to be most at risk are women defenders working to fight impunity for alleged human rights violations”. Special mention was made of risks to women trade unionists, women indigenous rights activists, and women environmental and land rights activists.
- Violations against defenders working on LGBT issues were also noted.These ranged from judicial issues (arrests, judicial harassment, administrative detentions, etc.) to restrictions in freedoms of assembly, but also killings,rape and sexual violence, physical attacks, and stigmatization. Concern for LGBT defenders were specifically highlighted in Africa (Sudan and Uganda).
The report “reveals a worrying trend of criminalization of the activities carried out by women human rights defenders and those working on women’s rights or gender issues throughout the world.” This includes arrests and criminalization of the defenders’ work, as well as criminal investigations and irregularities relating to due process and fair trial procedures. “By contrast to Central and South America where threats and death threats are most commonly reported, arrests and criminalization were most commonly reported in Asia and the Pacific.” China and the Islamic Republic of Iran are mentioned in relation to concern for arrests and prison sentences. Europe and Central Asia are also mentioned regarding arrests, detentions and criminalization.