While China postures on the international stage, women human rights defenders are routinely targeted

Mary Lawlor is the Executive Director at Front Line Defenders.

On 27 September China will co-host with UN Women a “Global Leader's Meeting on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment” in New York. Chinese President Xi Jinping will address the gathering, as will Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon. The event will mark 20 years since the Beijing Declaration and is intended to place 'gender equality, women's rights and women's empowerment at the centre of the global agenda'.

Larger than Laws: In The Backlash Against HRDs, Killings Remain Paramount

Mary Lawlor is the Executive Director at Front Line Defenders.

As I read Harriet Sherwood's recent article on “the global crackdown on human rights groups not seen in a generation" I found myself nodding along with every point she made. Not only is there a global backlash against human rights, and in particular human rights defenders, but we are in effect at a turning point, as the culture of human rights, built up over the last 50 years, is the target of an increasingly virulent ideological challenge.


Mary Lawlor is the Director at Front Line Defenders. This article was originally published in Spanish in Des Informemonos on Monday, 8 June 2015.

The elections are over and from the media coverage we can see that they have been one of the most controversial in the recent history of Mexico. As Juan Carlos Flores Solís says,

The Rohingya - “A group to be eliminated”

Mary Lawlor is founder and Executive Director of Front Line Defenders. This blog was originally published on Prachatai English.


When Azerbaijan hosted the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest human rights defender Rasul Jafarov organised a campaign called Sing for Democracy to highlight the brutal repression in his country. Mary Lawlor looks at the situation now in one of Europe's last great dictatorships when the Eurovision circus moves on.

Remembering Sabeen Mahmud

In May 2013, I went to Pakistan to meet human rights defenders. It was my first time in Pakistan and I found it a very complex country. We were very fortunate though that Sabeen Mahmud allowed us to use her space cafe T2F to meet human rights defenders and hear about the threats that they faced.

Colombia: 19 human rights defenders killed in first quarter of 2015

During her recent visit to Colombia the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri stated “The road to peace is a complex and winding one ... Colombia is a country with a unique opportunity to evolve into a society where everyone enjoys rights equally and without discrimination”.

She explained that civil society representatives, women, indigenous peoples, afro-descendants and peasant organisations have suffered disproportionately in Colombia’s protracted conflict:

“They tell us stories of suffering and abuses they have suffered, not just because of the conflict, but because of a system that has historically discriminated and dispossessed them.”

Unfortunately, the Commissioner's use of the past tense and the media's focus on the peace talks in Havana imply that the fighting is over, that it is now just a matter of tidying up loose ends.

Women Human Rights Defenders in China: Twenty Years After Beijing, What's Changed?

When I arrived at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW) in Beijing, Chinese authorities welcomed hundreds of foreign dignitaries and international rights groups with rainbow coloured scarves. Yet, while China hosted what would come to be known as the pre-eminent gathering on gender equality for the next twenty years, the government was also systematically disempowering Tibetan women through its repressive policies towards the Tibetan Autonomous Region. At the opening of the conference in 1995, in protest against China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices, a delegation of exiled Tibetan women gagged themselves with the silk.

Throughout the conference, Chinese security officers filmed, photographed, and followed the Tibetan women. On the third day, the activists lead a workshop on "Women and Development in Tibet," which so angered the crowd that a counter-protest erupted. My self and colleague Frank Jennings – later known to the Chinese authorities as “Black Hand” for his outspoken work in support of women rights defenders in China – tried to act as human shields while Chinese men shouted and pushed Tibetan women to the floor.

Sudan - where calling for the rule of citizenship and democracy constitutes waging war on the state

Sudanese human right defender Amin Mekki Medani is 76 years old and his health is critical. Despite this he is standing trial in Khartoum on charges of “waging war against the state” and “undermining the constitutional system” both of which carry the death penalty.

Uzbekistan – the Diplomatic Game and the Art of Betrayal

As President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan looks all set to begin his fourth and unconstitutional, term of office a lot of the media attention has focused on the fate of his daughter Gulnara. Is she or isn't she under house arrest? Did she or didn't she pocket $1 billion in bribes from telecommunications companies? But the question we should be asking is, what does the future hold for the people of Uzbekistan?