Feminist documentation is a means to make women’s experience of human rights defense visible, by recognizing its inherent value. It is motivated by the courageous activism of people around the world, particularly women, who dare to resist and fight for what they believe is right. It is also motivated by women who put their lives on the line for justice, accountability, and fairness. It seeks to create, build, and promote analysis of women human rights defenders who experience violations because of who they are and what they do. Women human rights defenders, regardless of their gender, face violence, discrimination, and torture for their activism.
Feminist documentation of human rights violations is a common strategy for holding perpetrators of abuses accountable. It is also one way to secure justice for those harmed as well as shed light on the heinous crimes committed upon women, who are just demanding their rights. It applies a feminist methodology and approach to documentation by capturing the unique experiences of women human rights defenders sensitively and ethically. It can then generate and sustain a sense of empowerment for violation survivors, activists, and those who document their experience. These stories (documentation) can also educate the general public, change opinions, create tools to learn from one another, and hold solutions for effective social change.
Women human rights defenders are not always victims of violence; they are also tireless agents of change. The contribution of women human rights defenders to the protection and promotion of human rights often goes unrecognized or undervalued. Amidst this, documentation of their stories brings visibility and legitimacy to the work and contribution made by women human rights defenders in the lives of people as well as motivates them to continue the work they are doing in order to bring change. It is also necessary to:
- Build recognition and acknowledgment of the legitimacy of women human rights defenders’ work
- Secure preventive and monitoring measures
- Ensure accountability, justice, and protection
- Address and challenge the impact of context and environment of violations
- Strengthen the means of empowerment and learning
Feminist documentation focuses on the roles, risks, and vulnerability of defenders who are women and gender non-conforming people, including but not limited to lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people. Women human rights defenders are targeted for who they are as well as for what they do. At the same time, violations against women human rights defenders are often not classified as legitimate human rights concerns and go unpunished.
What to document?
Feminist documentation is structured with mainly two components:
i) rationales that motivate the process and
ii) expectations or needs from the process.
It generally reveals that harm has taken place and assumes that there must be accountability for it. Besides, documentation involves activism for movement building, historical and tactical purposes, and simply to educate.
Capturing the experience of women human rights defenders requires asking questions beyond those that generally shape documentation. Documentation must commit to seeking information beyond the norms, to make the gender-specific details visible. It must go beyond the analysis of the experiences of all defenders and instead focus on the particular experience of a person.
Violations against women human rights defenders are not always gender-specific. But there must be sensitivity to how risks, abuses, and repercussions are shaped by gender. So, we document the following:
- Part – I Ranges of critical gender-related issues facing women human rights defenders
- Part–II Context and environment that shapes abuses
Tarangini Foundation documents such crucial components of feminist documentation through researches (FPAR), case studies, digital stories, Vimeo, etc.
Together, these elements lay the foundation for gender-sensitive, gender-responsive, and useful documentation that can:
- Reveal the context that may have facilitated the violation
- Expose the perpetrator(s) who might otherwise have been hidden or “excused”
- Challenge the impunity of perpetrators
- Explain why the violation happened that way, and
- Shape the response of the state, communities, and activists towards the violation
In many cases, this kind of documentation can also help defenders challenge the contexts that allowed the initial abuses.