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Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development - Women Human Rights Defenders Day Statement

Source: Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development. November 2012.

To mark the International Day of Women Human Rights Defenders [1] APWLD calls on the International community to recognise the importance of women human rights defenders voice and activism in the any new development framework. We mark the day in solidarity with women human rights defenders around the world and call attention to the particular threats faced by women struggling for economic justice and land rights.

Women Human Rights Defenders continue to face threats, harassment and even murder for who they are and what they do. Women and men who defend women’s human rights, who promote the voice of marginalised women and challenge inequalities and exploitation risk their lives for justice, peace and equality.
APWLD has noted increasing attacks on women involved in the defence of more equal and just development. Women are often at the forefront of work to defend land rights and promote economic justice. Often ascribed the role of sustaining the family and caring for children, women have even more to lose when forcibly evicted and displaced from lands. When they speak out they are attacked both for challenging the powerful as well as challenging the notion that women should not have a political voice.


On October 18 Juvy Capion, an indigenous, pregnant woman human rights defender was murdered in her home together with her two children. Juvy led indigenous peoples in the struggle to keep their ancestral lands against from being mined by Australian mining company SMI-Xstrata with the support of the Philippines Government. Today we call for Justice for Juvy.

In May this year 13 Cambodian women were violently arrested while singing songs about land rights. Within three days the women were convicted and sentenced to 2.5 years prison. While they were released on appeal their convictions were not overturned and the women remain forcibly evicted from their homes in Boeung Kak Lake without promised compensation and resettlement.

Also in May, women were assaulted and evicted from their homes in Paga Hill, Port Moresby, PNG and former Member of Parliament, Dame Carol Kidu, was prevented from defending them by police. “A policeman in civilian clothes came towards me, slapped me first, then punched me and I fell to the ground. I cried and crawled towards the bulldowzer, I held the wheels and said if you kill my house you are killing me so I might as well die with my house” said Grace Gereva who was being evicted.

APWLD calls on States to:

Demonstrate their commitment to women human rights defenders today by committing to

1. Recognise the central role of marginalised women in all development policies and decisions. Commit to establishing space at all levels : local, national, regional and international where women can exercise democratic rights to be part of decision making processes. Commit to 40% quota for women in all stakeholder processes in the post2015 development framework and establish national multistakeholder platforms where women’s organisations are present.

2. Recognise the importance of land rights and the detrimental impact of landgrabbing on women’s rights. Commit to the inclusion of a land access goal in the post 2015 development agenda with a gender indicator.

[1] The International Day for Women Human Rights Defenders is marked by organisations committed to advancing the rights of women human rights defenders. APWLD is a founding member of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition who instigated the day.

Related Article: Safeworld Statement on the Safety of Women Human Rights Defenders