It has been 20 years since the Beijing Conference on Gender equality and while different reports reveal the improvement and stagnancy in the situation all around the world; a report by The Guardian reveals how the human rights activists fighting for the cause are being targeted. In the Guardian’s Global Development Podcast, reporter Liz Ford reveals the challenges faced by women’s rights defenders around the world.


In the Podcast feed, Daysi Flores, JASS Honduras country director, talking about Gladys Lanza’s imprisonment, says, “Women are in a really very bad position in the whole world but in countries like Honduras where we actually no rights all, we may have the worst part. And the women who speak up in a worse [position.]”


This is not an isolated case. Women activists in different countries face different obstacles. Nimalka Fernando, president of the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism in Sri Lanka, reveals how she and other women activists in the country are seen as bad and evil women and sometimes referred to as sex workers by newspaper editors for standing up for other sex workers.


Phumzile Mlambo Nguka Picture By: Ms Afropolitan
Phumzile Mlambo Nguka
Picture By: Ms Afropolitan

Maryam Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, working out of Bahrain for the protection of human rights defenders and being involved with women from ten other countries; told The Guardian: “We’ve seen systematic targeting of human rights defenders in all of the countries we cover. And they range from anything like racial killings to judicial harassment to defamation and so on… ”


Other countries like China subjugate women to punishment for trying to raise their voice against sexual harassment. So not only are these women unprotected by their law, when it comes to harassment; they don’t even have to right to speak against it. Phumzile Mlambo Nguka, the executive director of UN Women agrees that women who speak up for their rights are especially targeted.


Many countries in the world that give women little or no rights, make women activists much more venerable than the male activists. In an effort to penalize them, these women are mostly sexually violated and are sometimes subjected to other different kinds of atrocities. There are regimes in countries that refuse to issue birth certificates to the children of these activists, making them stateless. All of this leads to mental torture and sometimes ends up diverting women from the issue they stand up against. Despite efforts by the United Nations, not much has changed in the treatment and harassment of women activists.



[Featured Picture Courtesy:  Frontline Defenders]