Women Human Rights Defenders Resisting Culturally Justified Violence Against Women

IRAN: Nasrin Sotoudeh

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Nasrin Sotoudeh was born in 1963 to what may be considered a religious middle class family in Iran. She completed her studies in International Law in Shahid Beheshti University in the early 90s. Married to Reza Khandan in 1994, with whom she has two children, Nasrin regards her husband, Reza, as very committed to her work as a women’s rights activist. After completing her Masters degree in International Law, Nasrin took and passed the bar exam successfully in 1995 to become a lawyer. However, her permit to practice law was not granted to her until eight (8) years later.

Positive Women Human Rights Defenders

What does a positive women human rights defender look like? (Photo: IPPF; Simon Raynor, LRPS, CollageMedia Ltd)

On the occasion of World AIDS Day (01 December) and the 16 Days of Activism, the VNC Campaign pays tribute to the courage and perseverance of women human rights defenders living with HIV. This article by Alice Welbourn published presents another dimension of 'culture' that need challenging – one that stigmatizes and causes further injustice to women with HIV . The stories of HIV-positive women human rights defenders presented by the author show how they are reclaiming their dignity and those of others similarly affected by this world-wide epidemic through their perseverance and dedication.

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Coalition of African Lesbians: Discriminately Denied Legitimate Status by African Commission

Coalition of African Lesbians

The (CAL) was founded in 2003 as an independent, non-profit organization with a membership comprising of organizations in Africa that do work to support  the struggle of lesbian women for equality. 

Comprised of organizations from eleven African countries, CAL is the first non-governmental organization in Africa to work for the equality of lesbians at a continental level. In response to a climate of staggering violence targeting out lesbians and gay men throughout the continent, CAL has worked with the African Commission on Human and People's Rights to challenge homophobic rhetoric and policy, and to incorporate LGBT rights into the African human rights platform. CAL's acclaimed annual Leadership Institutes hone the ideas and skills of lesbians, feminists, gender activists and academics across the continent.

The Center for Indigenous Peoples' Cultures of Peru (CHIRAPAQ)


CHIRAPAQ (The Center for Indigenous Peoples' Cultures of Peru) was formed 1986 in Ayacucho, Peru by a group of Andean and Amazonian women. Their goal was to increase cultural representation of Indigenous Peoples, defend Indigenous rights and strengthen Indigenous identities in their communities.

Today, investigates violations of Indigenous Peoples' rights, offers women and youth human rights trainings and works to document and preserve Indigenous culture. The organization also works to eradicate poverty and hunger in the Andean region through community self-help programs that increase self-sufficiency and access to food and expand the community's economic base.

Polish Federation of Women and Family Planning

"My Body My Choice" Poster Campaign

In 1992, the was established by five organizations (the Pro Femina Association, the Polish Feminist Association, the League of Polish Women, Neutrum, and The Society for Family Development) in order to defend women's right to choose.

The Federation defends the right to legal and safe abortion, to full accessibility of all medically accepted family planning methods and to modern gender-sensitive sex education. The Federation advocates for better standards of reproductive health rights and practices towards women within the healthcare system. It provides education and counselling services for women and youth with respect to family planning, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS and other related issues.

Women's Ordination Conference

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In 1976, the late Pope Paul VI issued the Inter
Insignores, the Declaration on the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood stating that the Vatican is not authorised to admit women to the priesthood.  Since then, the (WOC), based in Washington D.C., has become a visible feminist advocate proactively campaigning for the ordination of women as priests, deacons and bishops under its vision around an inclusive and accountable Roman Catholic Church.

Child Protection Project

Child Protection Project


 Linda Walker and Flora Jessop, the founder and Executive Director of the Child Protection Project respectively, both hail from Mormon backgrounds. Flora Jessop was raised in a fundamentalist community practicing polygamy, and forced and child marriage, and fought to escape to a life where she would be guaranteed the right to bodily integrity and self-determination. Flora’s negative experiences dealing with unsympathetic local authorities and law enforcement officials led her to commit herself to actively campaign for justice for women and children facing abuse in polygamous communities in Arizona and Utah.

Iraq: An Underground Railroad for Iraqi Women

Photo of Yannar Mohammed from OWFI, co-founder of the Underground Railroad.

 and the  work together to meet the needs of survivors of gender-based violence and to empower Iraqi women to defend their rights. 


In 2003, the US invaded Iraq. Since then, more than one million Iraqis have been killed, civil war has raged, and four million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes. Despite promises of "democratizing" Iraq, the US supported Islamist political forces bent on dismantling women's legal rights.