Protection of women human rights defenders

Women who act to promote or protect human rights and all individuals who defend the rights of women or work for gender equality – collectively known as “women human rights defenders” (WHRDs). They are often targeted with particular forms of violence and harassment. Defenders working on sexual and reproductive health and rights are at heightened risk in many countries.

The Government of Armenia continuously fails its obligation to guarantee proper protection of human rights defenders, as a part of its responsibility to protect and promote human rights, stipulated by  numerous international treaties, ratified by Armenia, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) and specified by the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) adopted by the resolution of UN General Assembly.

According to the Article 12 of the above mentioned Declaration “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his/her rights.”

In her report on the Situation of human rights defenders (A/HRC/25/55, 2013), the Special Rapporteur specifically focused on integrating a gender perspective into the State’s policies aimed at protection of HRDs. She highlighted that women human rights defenders (WHRDs[2]) are more at risk of suffering certain types of violence and prejudice, particularly because women defenders are often perceived as challenging accepted sociocultural norms, traditions and stereotypes about femininity, sexual orientation, and the role and status of women in the society. Importantly, in 2013 the UN adopted its landmark Resolution on Protecting Women Human Rights Defenders (A/RES/68/181, 2013).

Given that and in the light of the growing number of government-organized non-governmental organizations (GONGOs) which try to threaten and/or discredit human rights defenders, WHRDs need more protection, legal guarantees and support from the Government for their effective functionality. However, the viewpoints of human rights organizations are systematically disregarded by the authorities even in the drafting process of the key human rights strategies and laws.