Who Protects Human Rights Defenders?

Human rights defenders are activists who work for a social change.  If human rights are to be protected, then the activists have to work in a safe and secure environment.
International Women’s Day is a tribute to those to women who struggled to make the world a better place for women.  The role of human rights defenders cannot be forgotten or ignored.  The fruits of this struggle gave birth to this Day. 
There is a gross violation of the human rights of those defending human rights. They become victims of false and fabricated propaganda about their personal life. This influences public opinion specially those who always remain indifferent to a social change.

Women human right defenders have their sexuality always under attack. Questions are raised about their moral character/sexual freedom because they are on the move at all hours to reach out to victims. Instead of recognizing their contribution and dedication to the cause, attention is diverted to their personal lives and activities. Politicians caught on the wrong foot ridicule the defenders as they defend the vulnerable women. So they convince the locals whom they (purchase with favours) to speak against the activists.
Family members discourage and pressurize these defenders to stop this activity as it is a threat to their life, safety and privacy. The family of a social activist is totally traumatized, put to great deal of inconvenience and fears waiting for the defender to return home unharmed. Social work makes a big hole in the family resources. Hey are sometimes disowned by their families.
The State, unable to meet the demands for change that people’s groups throw up, uses repression against the movement leaders. Repression against activists is either for economic, ethnic, caste or political reasons.
The National Security Act 1980, is used to detain the defender arbitrarily even for a year. The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, refusal to file case of the defenders against authorities, ban on protest meets and dharnas, stigmatization, filing of false complaints against the defender using various sections of the CrPC to detain an activist are the weapons of state repression. The State machinery is used to file false criminal cases, death in custody due to torture, gender specific torture such as rape, verbal sexually coloured abuse to discourage the activist.
As an activist I have also been a victim to some of the above violations of my human rights. Whilst we commemorate International Women’s Day on 8th March, this year, let’s make the place safe and secure for the defenders of human rights. The State has to think in terms of protection for the defenders from itself and others. There has to be a national solidarity network and support centres to take steps against any incident of harassment. Human Rights Courts have to be set up. Imparting of human rights education to all sections of society regardless of their background is a must to make Goa and India a safe and secure place for all.

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