During the Celebration of the International Day on Women Human Rights Defenders: Women Activists Are Still Being Pushed Away from the Public Sphere by the Authorities


11 Dec 2011

The Women Human Rights Defenders Program (WHRDP), of Nazra for Feminist Studies, is launching today its first report “A Continuation of Violations: Military Policy Towards Women Human Rights Defenders” on the ongoing state’s discriminatory policies against women human rights defenders since the Mubarak's regime till now.

The launching of the report comes as the world celebrates the 6th International Women Human Rights Defenders Day. 29 November marks the anniversary of the opening of the First International Consultation on Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs), organised in 2005 by several human rights organisations in Sri Lanka, and of which participants declared 29 November as the International Day on WHRDs.

"Women human rights defenders face persistent violations from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, a practice inherited from the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak" said Masa Amir, the WHRDP researcher. She added; "women human rights defenders defy cultural, religious, and social norms about the role of women in society and thus arouse more hostility than their male counterparts. Even though those women face the same risks faced by all human rights defenders, they also suffer additional violations because of their gender that are sexual in nature, which range from harassment and rape to sexuality baiting on the basis of their reproductive or marital status."

And on the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, the Cairo Court of Administrative Justice today adjourned ruling on lawsuit No.45092/65 filed by several human rights groups, including Nazra for Feminist Studies against the military's decision of forcing women to examine their virginity in military prisons and detention places for Armed Forces. The case famous known as the 'virginity tests' case happened last March against female protestors is a case in point in an important aspect in women human rights defenders' experience of violations; which is the regulation of female sexuality. "Militarism compounds the woes of women human rights defenders, characterized by an increased justification of the use of violence and the use of coercive power to ensure 'stability', facilitating violence against women human rights defenders and restricting their ability to challenge the violations they face" Masa added.

Nazra documented violations against women human rights defenders on several occasions, one of them was the sit-in in Tahrir that was being dispersed twice in the first week of August by the army. "The emotional pain and agony of the girl activists were a lot harsher than the physical pain of the violence they had to face from the military police. Being exposed to scrutiny and the notion of naming and shaming that they faced were more violent than the electric shocks or the bruises and injuries all over their bodies" said Salma El-Naqqash, WHRDP coordinator. "The fear they felt every time they took part in a demonstration after these two incidents and the growing paranoia of being exposed to harsher 'punishment' because they wanted to play a role in the public sphere was beyond the physical pain they had to live with for some time" she added.

The report addresses the violations against women human rights defenders committed during the reign of the ousted regime of Mubarak. In addition, the report also highlights the perpetuation of such attacks by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces since they assumed power in February, focusing on virginity tests as an example of the sexual and gender-based violence against women human rights defenders exercised after the start of the revolution. However, virginity tests are not the sole example of gender-based violence against women human rights defenders, but merely serve as the epitome of the policy of targeting women human rights defenders by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces; a policy that will not stop until militarism is dismantled in Egypt.
For more information please contact:
Yara Sallam: [email protected], +201008602062 [Arabic - English – French].