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Territories of the Body



Sexual Violence



Within the social conflicts due to the extractivism, the stigmatization through campaigns of defamation against the female defenders are usual. They pretend to exacerbate patriarchal stereotypes about women in order to discredit them. These campaigns emerge in press and media and are the result of a collaboration between companies and States looking to difame the female environmental leaders and their organizations. It must also be stated that these smear campaigns are massively using the sexual component against the women who defends universal rights.

Those campaigns of defamation and stigmatization only weaken and wear down the female defenders generating traumas and belittling their demands.

Mirtha Vásquez

Mirtha Vásquez, peruvian lawyer from the region of Cajamarca, took over for many years the defense of the Human and territorials Rights of a large number of persons affected by the mining industry. Due to her labor, she has been the victim of hate campaigns and stigmatization on behalf of society, the State and the media.


Women who participate in protests against extractive economic policies of Latin – American governments suffer from processes of criminalization that intensify their inequality.

A strategy of criminalization is repression, adapting the police, military and legal instrument, which enables police and/or direct military repression, the selective persecution of leaders and the creation of normative frameworks that sanction public protest as a crime associated with public disorders. It allows to stop and condemn social activists and even torture or kill them, comparing them with criminals and/or terrorists. This causes that defenders have to face complaints and unfair judicial processes.

These are repressive and demobilizing strategies that are difficult to defend without investing innumerable resources that female defenders generally do not necessarily have.

Emperatriz Bolaños

The environmental leader Emperatriz Bolaños has been criminalized to 36 years of effective prison as a result of her defense against the Conga mining project of the Yanacocha mining company in Cajamarca, Peru. She was accused, along with 16 comrades, of crimes never committed.

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is presented as a continuum of gender violence that gets worse in contexts of extractive activities. This is performed by public and private actors: private security of companies, military and paramilitary groups and police.

In social conflicts due to extractive activities, women are exposed to sexual harassment during repression and police arrest, suffering touching, harassment, verbal aggressions with sexual content, follow-ups and violations. In these contexts, women are placed in a situation of higher vulnerability to the problems of sex trade, people trafficking, forced labor and child labor.

Sara Catalán

Sara Catalán, Guatemalan environmental defender of the La Puya Peace Resistance Collective, is developing a non-violent struggle against the “El Tambor” gold project with the women of her municipality. Despite having been victims of physical and sexual violence, the women of that group continue to claim justice for the acts of violence of Human Rights with pacifism.


The femicides are the most extreme type of physical violence that it has ever been done against the female defenders. Femicides are committed in order to neutralize their labor and demobilize the organizations. The States are implementing repressive politics that increase the role of the security forces and offer a place to the private companies ́ impunity.

In 2017, Front Line Defenders registered 312 assassinations of female and male defenders in 27 countries, 67% was defending the land, the rights of the indigenous nations and the environment, almost every time in context of megaprojects ́activities, extractive industries and big corporations.

According to the Mesoamerican Register of Assaults to Female Defenders of Human Rights (Registro Mesoamericano de Agresiones a Defensoras de Derechos Humanos), from 2012 to 2014, the female defenders of the Earth, the land and the natural resources were the female defenders of Human Rights the most attacked. They suffered 525 assaults which represent 31% of a total of 1688 attacks to female defenders

Vidalina Morales

The environmental defender and director of the Salvadoran NGO ́s ADES, Vidalina Morales, testifies about the assassinations of her comrades during the conflicts in the department of Cabañas against the mining company Pacific Rim. El Salvador is one of the countries with highest rate of femicides in social and environmental conflicts.

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