Women who act to promote or protect human rights and all individuals who defend the human rights of women or work for gender equality – collectively known as “women human rights defenders” (WHRDs) – are often targeted with particular forms of violence and harassment. Defenders working on sexual and reproductive health and rights are at heightened risk in many countries. These defenders can be civil society representatives, grassroots activists, lawyers, journalists, parliamentarians, members of the judiciary, and service providers who often help ensure that women can exercise their rights.
International human rights bodies have raised concerns about restrictions on defenders’ freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of movement, assembly and association as well as on their ability to access funding for their work. Restrictions can involve bans on dissemination of information, limitations on advocacy activities and obstacles to register organizations in countries where such registration is required. In addition, when they defend the rights of individuals whose behavior is criminalized (for example, LGBT individuals, sex workers, drug users, people living with HIV, or others) they often face additional dangers.