2021 Open Letter to Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in advance of the annual Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security
The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda is, at its heart, an agenda led by civil society, who, in partnership with Member States and the UN, lobbied for the adoption of Resolution 1325 (2000). At this year’s Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, we ask you to stand with the women human rights defenders (WHRDs), peacebuilders, advocates for gender equality and other civil society leaders who play a critical role in advancing our common goal of peace, human rights and gender justice, yet are under relentless attack for doing so.
To be a woman today in many parts of the world, particularly in a conflict zone, means having to choose between fighting for your rights, or fighting for your life.
We are deeply concerned by the crisis in Afghanistan and the plight of the many Afghan women civil society leaders, peacebuilders, human rights defenders (HRDs) and journalists at grave risk, who have either been forced to flee or remain trapped in the country since the Taliban took power. Afghan women have courageously and tirelessly fought for their rights for decades, despite conflict, deeply-rooted discrimination, corruption and poverty — they are now under threat from a regime that has an extensive record of brutality and repression of women’s rights. In recent months, women leaders, activists and journalists have been targeted and prevented from fully exercising their right to participate in all spheres of public and political life in areas under Taliban control. Women who are, or are perceived to be, lesbian or bisexual face additional risks of persecution.
Women human rights defenders in other conflict zones fare little better. In Myanmar, the women who led protests against the coup by the Tatmadaw in February this year are fighting against both the military and patriarchy. They have been detained, tortured and sexually abused for standing up for human rights and democracy, all while continuing to hold leading roles in the resistance movement. In Colombia, HRDs, especially Afro-descendant, Indigenous and LGBTIQ activists, are at heightened risk of gender-based violence for defending their rights, their land and their communities. Yemeni activists have warned that retaliation against women for participating in political life has reached unprecedented levels. South Sudanese defenders and peacebuilders both within and outside the country face routine targeting and surveillance. Palestinian WHRDs who criticize the Israeli occupation regularly face violence, raids, judicial harassment, arrest, assault and movement restrictions for carrying out their work.