31st March 2010

For Immediate Release

Conservative Human Rights Commission urges a Conservative government to engage with women human rights defenders

In a new report released today the Commission recommends that a future Conservative government should consult and involve Women Human Rights Defenders in political dialogue and demonstrate that the UK is serious about the enforcement of international commitments on human rights.

It urges the provision of UK investment for training projects for WHRDs, particularly for national projects in countries where abuse is rife. The report aims at judicial reform and training for women in the creation of peaceful and prosperous societies and the legitimacy of the role of WHRDs.  It recommends that obligations towards women are treated as a foreign policy priority and that working with and supporting human rights is mainstreamed through UK government policy and practice.

The report, entitled “Supporting Women Human Rights Defenders” is the work of an inquiry addressing the issues for WHRDs.  It recognises the additional risks and threats that they might have to confront and seeks to establish exactly how the UK can better support their work.

Chaired by Fiona Hodgson who works on a variety of women’s issues in the context of developing and conflict countries and is President of the Conservative Women’s Organisation, the inquiry heard evidence from many groups and individuals including AB Columbia/CAFOD, Amnesty International, International Justice Mission and One World Action.

Fiona Hodgson said:

”It has proved impossible to isolate the situation of WHRDs from their cultural status as women and so this report, while acknowledging the wide variation in women’s status from country to country, attempts to briefly consider how the position that women occupy in their society, culture and community contributes to their greater potential vulnerability. By standing up to defend their rights and the rights of others, WHRDs frequently challenge the societal norms in their culture and as a result face stigmatization and threat from inside their communities, sometimes even from within their own families.”

Nicola Blackwood, Vice Chair of the group and PPC for Oxford West and Abingdon, said:

“If there is one single message that this report aims to convey, it is that the women we have met and heard about have proved beyond a doubt that with all the odds stacked against them, WHRDs are not just victims, they are effective agents of change.”