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Lebanon activists protesting against violence against women – one of the issues that generates most threats against women human rights defenders. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Alexandra Karlsdotter Stenström.
Lebanon activists protesting against violence against women – one of the issues that generates most threats against women human rights defenders. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Alexandra Karlsdotter Stenström.

Alarming level of threats against women's rights activists

The space for women’s rights activists all over the world to carry out their work is fastly shrinking, as threats and attacks against them are becoming increasingly systemized. This warns a new report presented by The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

The study, Femdefenders: The hatred against women human rights defenders – online and offline is based on a questionnaire answered by 66 women’s rights activists in Armenia, Georgia, Albania, Kosovo, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their answers are alarming:

  • The respondents commitment to women’s rights has led to them being called whores and traitors. They have been accused of being bad women and mothers and are exposed to serious threats, rape and blackmail.
  • 70 percent have been subjected to threats or attacks in public spaces. Six activists have survived attemts on their lives.
  • 55 percent have been subjected to threats online. Often the threats are anonymous, but in some countries they come directly from politicians. Sometimes the perpetrators are members of the police force or people who work in governmental agencies.
  • 65 percent of those who answered the question of how these threats and violence have affected them, suffer from insomnia and/or depression.

Accused of spreading pornography

A grassroots organisation in Armenia that works with education in sexual and reproductive rights, reported serious threats being made against them to the police – and where met with suspicion. The organisation distributes a brochure with information for young people and the police started an investigation against the activists, accusing them of spreading pornography.

Some issues seem to provoke haters more than others. According to the survey, those who work against violence against women are subjected to the most hatred, threats and violence.

”It might seem strange that a right that should be a matter of course – the right to not be subjected to violence – is raising so much opposition. But this issue is about freeing people from closed-in gender roles, changing structures and redistributing power. Violence and threats are tools used to intimidate women into silence and to push back those who threaten current power structures. That is why women human rights defenders are so exposed,” says Kvinna till Kvinna’s Secretary General Lena Ag.

Global democray problem

She underlines the importance of seeing the connection between women’s and girls rights and the action space for activists who defend these same rights.

Who will stand up for girls and women if those who take the lead in this fight are being threatened, silenced or even killed? The systemized threats against these femdefenders affect everyone who are appalled by the global oppression of women. The threats against femdefenders is a global democracy problem,” she says.

“I encourage everyone who wants to see an end to violence against women and sexual abuse to show their solidarity with women human rights defenders. Use your voice! Get involved in the work against online and public threats, talk to your friends, blog, tweet, join demonstrations and local action groups and show feminists all over the world that you support them. Together we have to stand up for girls’ and women’s right to make their voices heard and change society! Every day. All the time.”

Emma Janke/Karin Råghall

Updated in: 2015-02-27

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