Who is a human rights defender?
Article 1 of the UN “Declaration on the right and responsibility of individuals, groups and organs of society to promote and protect universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms” states:
"Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels."
Human Rights Defenders may defend any political, civil, economic, social or cultural right. Defenders may include groups or individuals that organize to protect their natural environment, or groups that work to uncover the truth about forced disappearances, women's groups supporting survivors of domestic and sexual abuse, indigenous communities struggling for recognition of their land rights, and lawyers who offer legal advice to marginalized communities or who represent victims of state violence.
The UN Declaration also points out that the States must create the necessary conditions in order to exercise the right to defend human rights, including the right to freedom of speech.
In countries where communities are subject to violent conflict, intimidation or repression, human rights defenders can be key agents for resistance and change, since their work has the potential to bring about the long-term development of democratic civil society and ultimately peace. This often places them at risk, making them targets for threats, kidnapping, forced disappearance, assassination, and other insidious attacks, including public stigmatization, defamation or criminal proceedings based on trumped charges.
PBI is a direct witness of the risks to human rights defenders. For this reason, PBI provides support and protection to these courageous people who stand up for the rights and dignity of their communities and who work towards peace and justice for all.
Women human rights defenders
Women human rights defenders (WHRD) do the same work as their male counterparts, and face many of the same challenges and threats. However, women face additional obstacles and threats as a result of their gender.
In many societies women are not expected to speak out and challenge the status quo. Women human rights defenders suffer from threats, stigmatization, and social rejection. Still worse, women face these attacks not only because they are promoting and defending the rights of others, but also because they are women doing this work.
In Mexico women defenders face additional pressure and discrimination because of their gender and because they challenge entrenched discrimination and accepted norms of behavior. Indigenous women and women from rural areas are among those most at risk.
More than half of the human rights defenders that PBI accompanies in Mexico are women.
PBI is a member of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC).
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