Peru: Disturbing news on the situation of women human rights defenders

Since 2022, WHRDs have faced criminalisation and stigmatization in the context of the protests in the country

I’m hearing disturbing news of criminalization and stigmatization of women human rights defenders in Perú, in the context of the protests that have been taking place in the country since December 2022. 

Earlier this year, I joined other Special Procedures Mandate Holders to share my concerns with the government of Peru regarding the excessive use of force against demonstrators in the context of the protests. Information was received indicating that the methods used by the State had included extrajudicial executions and the arbitrary detention of demonstrators and human rights defenders; as well as torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of people detained in police stations or under other forms of custody. We expressed serious concern at alleged reprisals and stigmatization of protesters, journalists and human rights defenders, who were reportedly depicted as terrorists in response to their participation or issuing of statements regarding the demonstrations. Women human rights defenders seem to have been particularly targeted and persecuted.

As stated in the 2022 version of the Secretary General’s annual report on Women, Peace and Security (S/2022/740), “[…] women human rights defenders have increasingly been targeted with attacks that silence their advocacy and prevent them from participating in public life. The ascendancy of extremist political actors and the resurgence of military coups and unconstitutional changes of Government have made the work of human rights defenders more dangerous. […] In general, women are much more likely than men to be targeted with sexual and gender-based violence and to be subjected to verbal abuse, surveillance, and online violence. While all activists are targeted with defamation, smear campaigns and online and offline hate speech, the attacks against women human rights defenders typically target their personal behaviour, their moral conduct or their sex lives.”

Since December 2022, Peruvian women human rights defenders have taken a leading role in food distribution, logistics, and monitoring human rights violations. Their work and commitment has been key in ensuring community members from remote areas have been able to exercise their right to protest. These women are indigenous, peasant and social leaders. Not only do they face additional risks for being women, but also for what and who they represent.

While the Government has had a multi-sectoral protection mechanism for human rights defenders in place since 2021, there remains a need for a comprehensive policy and mandatory measures to ensure that defenders at risk can carry out their work in a favourable and secure environment. My mandate remains available to engage further with the relevant authorities and provide support in this regard.

In my next thematic report, I am seeking to identify the specific and intersectional risks faced by women human rights defenders in conflict, post-conflict or crisis-affected settings, including barriers they face in working freely, protection strategies they use to mitigate risk, and recommendations for how international actors, including the UN, can make their work safer. Given the current climate in Peru, I would be grateful for your contribution through the questionnaires available here.


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