Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


UN Human Rights Council – 20th Session

Australian Statement for the Annual full-day discussion on

“Women Human Rights Defenders”

26 June 2012

Australia welcomes this panel discussion on women human rights defenders.

We note with interest the panel’s distinction between human rights defenders who are women and human rights defenders who take action to specifically defend women’s human rights.

We appreciate the courage and bravery human rights defenders who are women exhibit around the world, especially where calling for democracy and decrying tyranny in the face of adversity. The intersection of various forms of discrimination and inequality consistently compound the issues faced by women who are defending human rights.

We acknowledge with sympathy and concern the human rights violations experienced by women human rights defenders at the hands of State and non-State actors. Australia does not tolerate human rights defenders – women or men - being subject to human rights violations including stigma, arbitrary arrest and detention, violence including sexual violence and rape. In particular, Australia has concern for nations which see these human rights violations occur with impunity.

Australia acknowledges the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to three outstanding women human rights defenders, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman, "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work".

Australia protects and promotes women’s rights as human rights and supports those who pursue the cause of promoting and protecting women’s human rights.

The Australian Government is committed to having strong role models appointed by Government to demonstrate the value of women human rights defenders. Currently, four of the six Commissioners at the Australian Human Rights Commission are women, including the President. Australia has a dedicated Sex Discrimination Commissioner, who is committed to improving gender equality through her advocacy, domestically and internationally, in preventing violence against women and promoting women’s representation in leadership. These leadership positions for women human rights defenders in Australia help to protect and empower women human rights defenders.

We would be interested in the Panel discussing how role models and women in leadership can help protect and empower women human rights defenders, both human rights defenders who are women and human rights defenders who take action to specifically defend women’s human rights.

Women must partake equally of human rights, and where women’s rights are defended, so are human rights.