Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018
Pronouncement of Session on Women Human Rights Defenders1
We who have participated in the Session on Women Human Rights Defenders wish to state in this space that 20 years after the approval of the Declaration and 5 years after passage of the Resolution on the protection of women defenders, we continue to be discriminated against, criminalized, and assassinated for daring to raise our voices and organize in defense of justice and equality.
We live in a world dominated by capitalism that sustains itself on the shoulders of women, on the sexual exploitation and control of our bodies, on racism and xenophobia, on the plunder and dispute over territories. A world where being an indigenous, black, lesbian or trans person means facing exclusion, stigmatization and death, day after day.
A world where violence has become a lucrative business that makes it profitable to impose more borders and walls, instigate more wars, and leave it to women to bear the weight of the care and survival of the planet.
Within this system that some call development, those who concentrate power and wealth are threatened by women who get organized and struggle for our rights. Thus, violence against us is utilized as a mechanism of social control and fear; it is an arm of war, an effective way to destroy the social fabric and maintain oppression.
Nevertheless, the gravity of the violence that women and non-binary persons experience because of demanding our rights is scarcely recognized. Even here in this space we have heard little about women defenders and trans persons who experience violence inside our families for non-compliance with traditional roles; about sex workers and migrant women who are beaten and sexually abused by the police when they demand their rights; about indigenous women of the original peoples who are stigmatized for defending their ancestral territories and vital resources. Neither have we spoken enough about the discrimination and harassment we experience as women in our own organizations and human rights spaces.
For us, protection means eradicating all structures of oppression and winning the cultural battle against them. We have worked hard to achieve judicial frameworks that recognize and protect our rights, but have seen time after time that favorable laws are not implemented.
Now, 20 years after the approval of the Declaration, we ask ourselves how much more energy we must spend trying to get governments to listen to us and comply with their obligations. Governments that imprison us, use sexual violence to repress us and gender stereotypes to slander us. States that are provoking extremely high levels of inequality and placing democracy and public resources at the service of corporate power, religious hierarchies and organized crime. Systems of justice that are sick with prejudice, corruption and impunity.
From our experience, we know that lives are saved by mutual care, protection networks, and interaction among movements. We know that strengthening our collective power in the communities and building our own forms of self-defense and healing have been most effective in protecting ourselves against violence and have allowed us to confront fear and maintain hope.
We know that there are alternatives to the current system. The indigenous and afro-descendant peoples in communities resisting extraction projects are also constructing alternative forms of consumption and more respectful relationships with nature as they put into practice other forms of government that strengthen collective power.
Feminists and non-binary persons, through the personal and collective experience of liberation, are contributing key aspects to the construction of societies without discrimination.
We hope that our vision will be included in the Plan of Action, that this will incorporate an inclusive, feminist language, and that it will express the urgency of changing the prevailing model. But above all, we hope that our vision will be integrated into the practice and political vision of the human rights movement that is present here today.
Taking seriously the inclusion of diversity in all decision-making spaces –strengthening the representation of the most remote regions--, assuring flexible and accessible resources for protection networks among women defenders and the collective protection of the communities, confronting corporate power both in the global North and South, building solidarity according to the vision and demands of communities and grassroots groups, and demanding zero tolerance of sexual and all kinds of harassment in social movements and human rights spaces, are concrete steps we can take to confront the violence of the current system and build a just and sustainable world for all beings that inhabit the planet.
1 Conclusions of the Session on Women Human Rights Defenders. Prepared by Marusia López (JASS and IM-Defensoras), Miriam Miranda (OFRANEH), Verónica Vidal (AWID and IM-Defensoras), Cynthia Rothschild, Georgina Orellano (AMMAR), with contributions from all who participated in the Session.