An official website of the United States government

Women Human Rights Defenders Must be Empowered to Engage their Goverments and Speak Out Without Fear
Annual Day of Discussion on Women’s Human Rights
June 26, 2012

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Megan Wong
Human Rights Council 20th Session
June 26, 2012

Thank you, Madame President.

The United States is strongly committed to supporting all human rights defenders and civil society activists who work hard every day, in every region, to ensure that those around them can enjoy their human rights.  Last spring, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders made clear that the unique situation of women who defend human rights deserves heightened attention and support.

Women who commit their lives to defending the human rights of others often face additional challenges—above and beyond those faced by their male colleagues—including barriers to equal participation in decision-making institutions generally.  In addition to the threats and violence to themselves or their families that all human rights defenders face, women activists may also face gender-based violence such as sexual assault and domestic violence.  Crimes against women human rights defenders may also go undocumented, either because gender-disaggregated data is not collected or because such violations and abuses occur within a framework that does not recognize gender-based violence as a politically motivated tactic.

The United States supports human rights defenders, including many women, by providing small grants to enable them to do their work, and emergency funds to protect and assist those facing imminent risk.  But women cannot succeed alone, even with the financial support of sympathetic governments.  Barriers to women’s full political and economic participation need to come down; women must be given equal access to justice; and gender-responsive mechanisms for protection from violence need to be established.

Above all, women must be empowered to engage their governments on these issues.  And they must be free to stand up for the rights of others, without fear that standing up for their own rights will put them in danger.

Thank you, Madame President.