2022 leaves us with a balance of 4,803 attacks against women defenders, their organizations, and collective actions in defense of rights.
- At least 20 women defenders were assassinated in Mesoamerica during 2022 including 4 trans women defenders.
- 788 women defenders and 201 organizations were targets of some form of aggression in El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua.
- Almost half of the registered attacks (2,330) occurred during collective actions, 1,820 were against individual women defenders, and 653 against organizations.
- The most heavily attacked were women defending the right to information and freedom of expression, defenders of women’s rights, those seeking truth, justice and reparations, women struggling for a life free from violence and those defending land and territory.
- Harassments (13%) were the most frequent form of aggression, followed by different forms of physical, psychological, or verbal violence (12%) and threats (9%).
- The governments, through public authorities (35%) and their police and armed forces (25%), are identified as the principal aggressors, followed by unknown persons, whether physical or virtual (18%).
From March to May we see the greatest upswing in attacks against the collective strength of women defenders
In the three-month interval from March to May, more attacks occur than in any other comparable period of the year. May stands out, with the greatest onslaught, ranging from a number of different strikes against women defending the right to a life free from violence in Mexico, a wave of cancellations of legal identities in Nicaragua, assaults against actions aimed at recovering lands in Honduras, and aggression against women communicators and rights defenders during the State of Exception imposed in El Salvador. Next comes March, a month that historically poses risks for women defenders who engage in many different actions around March 8th, International Women’s Day.
A glance at four countries
- In El Salvador a rebound in attacks against women defenders has been apparent during the imposition of the State of Exception, highlighting aggression against defenders in their right to freedom of expression (37%) and right to a life free from violence (37%), a situation maintained during the entire year and one that still holds sway.
- En Honduras attacks prevail against defenders of land and territory (38%) and the right to truth, justice, and reparations (15%). Aggression also continues against opponents of mining, forestry, or tourism projects that threaten the existence of communities and territories. Especially notorious are the attacks against Garifuna defenders resisting the evictions of indigenous communities and against those seeking justice for land defenders who have been criminalized.
- In Mexico the dominant forms of aggression occur against defenders of the right to information and freedom of expression (35%); the right to a life free from violence (26%) and the right to truth, justice, and reparations (14%). It is extremely regrettable and alarming that 5 women defenders searching for their disappeared family members were assassinated in 2022. The places with the highest number of attacks reported were Mexico City and the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán and Mexico.
- In Nicaragua, the most significant attacks included the systematic harassment and surveillance of women human rights defenders and their families (31%), repression against criminalized women defenders and political prisoners (6%), and the illegal closures of feminist or women’s rights organizations (35%), with a year-end total of 212 organizations shut down.
Chief perpetrators by country
*The Unknown perpetrators are frequently related to the ruling powers of each country, or to actors involved in extractive enterprises or organized crime.
Digital violence: an increasingly frequent form of aggression
Violence against women defenders and their organizations in the digital sphere is more common than ever. During 2022, the following forms of aggression came to the fore:
- On the personal level, the dissemination of false information that might smear the image of women defenders (13.5%); cyber attacks and/or cyberbullying (12.7%); Doxing or the publication of sensitive data on the internet (12.7%); and the hacking of accounts or social networks (10.8%);
- In its collective dimension, the disclosure of false information related to the activities of the targets of collective aggression (9.0%) and the public dissemination of information regarding a defender’s private and/or family life:
- Through organizations or groups, unauthorized hacking of accounts or social networks; smear campaigns; the seizure of basic goods used in defending human rights (audiovisual communication equipment, computers, servers, and means of conveyance, among others).