Madam Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, distinguished panellists,
I have the honour of delivering this statement on behalf of the five Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway.
We warmly welcome the panelists and thank them for their insightful interventions.
Women human rights defenders face extraordinary risks and are particularly vulnerable to violence and abuse because of who they are and the rights that they defend. Systemic inequities and the oppression of women human rights defenders have been on the agenda of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders for a long time. The critical situation that they continue to face compels us to strengthen our efforts and search for new and more effective ways to protect them.
Responding to violations against women human rights defenders requires specific responses and specific strategies. But it starts with something as simple as recognizing the equal right of women to stand up against human rights violations and demand accountability for the perpetrators. Women have no lesser right than men to engage in public life and use public space to advocate for change and justice.
In our search for responses and strategies, it is important to remember that women human rights defenders are themselves best placed to evaluate risks to their own security and that of their families. They should be involved in the design and implementation of protection programmes and seen as participants rather than recipients of protection plans. It is also an important point that protection cannot be provided by the same institutions or State agents that are accused of being the violator or the threat.
We would like to use this opportunity to reiterate our strong support for the recommendations on the topic of women human rights defenders put forward by the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders in last year’s report. We encourage all states to give priority to their implementation.
We have the following questions for the panelists:
- How should we respond to those who use tradition, culture or religion to justify repression and reprisals against women human rights defenders?
- One can have the impression that gender based violence often is used to silence women, while criminal legislation and criminal proceedings more often is used to silence men. Could the panellists comment on the gender dimension of criminalisation of human rights defenders? Please inform us also if there are specific measures one should take in support of women human rights defenders subjected to abusive criminal proceedings.
- Regional mechanisms are important, and should be effectively used to enhance the visibility of women human rights defenders and help to obtain resources for their protection. What concrete steps could be taken to strengthen cooperation between regional and global mechanisms in terms of protecting women human rights defenders?
- What concrete steps can be taken by the UN and the HRC to strengthen protection of women human rights defenders?
I thank you.