Mesoamerican Registry of Attacks against Women Defenders: January to March 2023 – Preliminary monthly data

June 1, 2023

During the first quarter of 2023 we registered 1,028 attacks against 274 women defenders

  • One woman defender was assassinated: Marleni del Carmen Reyes, a Salvadoran defender of the right to a life free from violence.

  • 703 of these attacks took place in the context of collective actions; 289 were attacks against individual defenders and 36 against organizations.

  • Physical, psychological, or verbal violence was the most frequent form of aggression (19%), followed by harassment (15%), then limitations, constraints, and/or attacks for exercising the right to freedom of expression (7%).

  • The State continues to be our principal aggressor, 4 out of every 10 attacks were perpetrated by public authorities and police and armed forces.


The most attacks were registered in March, “women’s month.”

This year once again saw a significant rise in the number of attacks in relation to prior months in the month of March, with almost half (43%) of all aggressions documented during the first quarter of the year. This increase has to do with attacks derived primarily from banishment and nationality dispossession of women defenders and activists in Nicaragua;  attacks against defenders of sexual and reproductive rights in El Salvador; evictions of women defenders of lands and territories in Honduras; and  attacks against searching mothers for disappeared family members in México.


A snapshot of violence against women defenders in each country:  

  • In El Salvador, women defenders who are engaged in the defense of sexual and reproductive rights have suffered the most attacks during this period (68%), followed by women who defend the right to information and freedom of speech (10%). In this quarter, the forms of aggression most often highlighted are derived from  attacks by anti-rights groups, many of which are perpetrated in the digital realm in the context of the hearing regarding the  case of Beatriz before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This case may establish a highly important precedent for El Salvador and the entire region regarding the legal interruption of pregnancy. 
  • In Honduras, women defenders of land and territory (70%) continue to be the hardest hit with 282 attacks against them in collective actions related to the defense of rights. The State of Exception, amplified once again in February, involves militarization as part of a systematic strategy of territorial dispossession expressed in numerous evictions.  In the area of Colón, a violent evacuation of the El Chile Cooperative took place, as did others in Comayagua and La Paz, two Lenca indigenous communities active in land recoveries, where evacuations involved the destruction of houses and crops.  More recently in the  Atlántida region, the eviction of 60 defenders belonging to the Las Galileas Campesina Womens’ Network  has resulted in legal prosecution and threats. 
  • In Mexico, it is noteworthy that more than half of all attacks were perpetrated against defenders exercising their right to information and freedom of expression (57%). Increasingly more “silenced zones” exist, areas in which defenders and journalists are unable to perform their informative work for fear of being attacked. Limitations or impediments are imposed upon them as they seek to report actions in the streets or conduct investigations of cases involving public officials, and they may also be subjected to threats and warnings from organized crime. Journalists reporting cases of disappeared persons are being threatened and women defenders searching for disappeared family members work in high-risk situations.  In this regard, we should bear in mind that from January of 2022 until the present, at least 6 searching defenders have been assassinated. 
  • In Nicaragua, the primary forms of aggression in this period were exile and deprivation of the right to citizenship (15%) and forced displacement (15%), related to the illegal expulsion from the country of 222 political prisoners and the dispossession of nationality   of 36 women defenders, activist women, and journalists. This happened after the National Assembly passed an ad hoc constitutional reform denying Nicaraguan nationality to persons accused of treason.  Some are considered fugitives from justice. 


The State continues to be our principal aggressor

4 out of every 10 attacks registered during the first quarter of 2023 were perpetrated by persons related to the State: public authorities (23%) and police and armed forces (21%); followed by unknown aggressors, both in physical and virtual spaces (18%).

  • Unknown virtual users (25%)
  • Unknown (10%)
  • Corporate news media and influential communicators (10%)
  • Public authorities (21%) 
  • Police (20%)
  • Unknown (12%)
  • Public authorities (21%)
  • Unknown (20%)
  • Police (18%)
  • Police (36%)
  • Public authorities (33%)
  • Paramilitary and para-police groups (13%)


Digital attacks during the first quarter of the year.

Violence against women defenders is more frequent than ever in the digital realm. The following attacks during the first quarter stand out at the regional level: 

  • At the personal level we registered 20 digital attacks (7%). The most significant include cyber harassment or cyberbullying, as well as digital surveillance and tracking. 
  • In collective actions we registered 46 digital attacks, among which are notable surveillance, monitoring of practices,  and stalking of victims of collective aggression; as well as viral hate speech (denunciations in social networks unleash a wave of online violence). 
  • Organizations and groups. In this quarter we registered the confiscation and robbery of basic products for exercising the defense of human rights:  audiovisual communications equipment, computers, servers, and means of transportation, among others (9%); hacking, unauthorized access to accounts or to an organization’s systemic web (6%); and impersonation, usurpation,  and robbery of electronic identity (3%).