Human rights defenders around the world find themselves operating in an increasingly hostile climate. Governments are restricting the ability of activists to voice unpopular views and challenge repressive laws and policies. They create constraints through harassment, intimidation, and by imposing new legal restrictions on the ability of civil society actors to form associations and receive funding. This phenomenon is known as “closing space.”33 It erodes rights, threatens social justice movements, and undermines participatory democracy and human rights promotion.
Adopting a human rights perspective, this briefing report highlights how women human rights defenders (WHRDs) are experiencing closing space. It throws into stark relief the degree to which States are falling short of their obligations under international law to these activists. It offers recommendations to States, the United Nations, and funders on how to address the impacts of closing space on human rights defenders.