Protect, empower and support women human rights defenders

Women human rights defenders challenge gender inequality and stereotypes, advance sexual and reproductive rights, and promote women’s empowerment and participation in society. They often challenge religious and cultural norms and patriarchal attitudes that subordinate, stigmatize or restrict women.

The winning picture submitted for the Exhibition of Women Human Rights Defenders was awarded on 19 June 2014 in London. The Human Rights House Network (HRHN) awarded Daro Sulakauri for her picture of Lela Tsiskarishvili from the Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims.

HRHN created this exhibition as a contest. A jury of three professional photographers in London reviewed the submissions of 12 Human Rights Houses (HRH) and unanimously selected the winning portrai.

The exhibition aims at portraying women human rights defenders as they often face more risks than other human rights defenders. The former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Margaret Sekaggya dedicated her report to the Human Rights Council for the March 2011 session to women human rights defenders, who “are more at risk of suffering certain forms of violence and other violations, prejudice, exclusion, and repudiation than their male counterparts,” she said. “This is often due to the fact that women defenders are perceived as challenging accepted socio-cultural norms, traditions, perceptions and stereotypes about femininity, sexual orientation, and the role and status of women in society. Their work is often seen as challenging ‘traditional’ notions of the family which can serve to normalize and perpetuate forms of violence and oppression of women. This can, in certain contexts, lead to hostility or lack of support from the general population, as well as the authorities.”

HRHN’s photo exhibition was launched following the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in November 2013 of a landmark resolution on women human rights defenders.

Norway was the main sponsor of the resolution and led the negociations leading to its unanimous adoption at the General Assembly. ”The resolution sends a clear message that oppression of women human rights defenders must never be accepted. It prescribes a number of steps to be taken by states to prevent violence, violations and abuses against anyone who defends the human rights of women,” said State Secretary Hans Brattskar in March 2014 at the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

On the occasion of the International Day of Women Human Rights Defenders, 29 November 2014, HRHN has launched its Exhibition on-line.

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