Around the world, women, girls and people of diverse gender identities play a crucial role in promoting and protecting the rights of people on the move. They do this in many ways, such as rescuing people in distress on land and at sea and accompanying migrants on dangerous journeys. Some provide shelter, transport, healthcare, education, legal aid and integration support to people at different stages of migration. Others document human rights violations and advocate for laws, policies and practices that protect the rights of migrants, refugees and stateless people.
However, migrant women human rights defenders face significant risks, such as stigmatization, criminalization, surveillance, physical assaults, and sexual and gender-based violence from state and non-state actors. Women human rights defenders who are themselves migrants, particularly those in an irregular situation, often face higher risks due to their migration status, such as arrest, detention, deportation and repression. They may also be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; some were killed or forcibly disappeared.
It is essential that States respect, protect and fulfill the rights of migrant women human rights defenders. This guidance note outlines steps states can take to create an enabling environment for human rights and to ensure the rights of women, girls and gender-diverse people at all stages and in all types of migration, so that they can defend their own rights and the rights of others.