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Supporting, resourcing and strengthening women's rights movements globally

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Challenging Religious Fundamentalisms

The Issue

All over the world, there has been a rise of extremist and anti-rights groups, including States and non-state actors, using arguments based on religion, culture and tradition to justify violence and discrimination. This violence is particularly targeted against women, girls, ethnic and religious minorities, people who dissent from or challenge fundamentalist movements, and people expressing non-normative gender identities and sexualities.

Justifications based on religion, culture, tradition and nationalism are also being used to block and cause regressions of laws at all levels – including in the sphere of international law. These justifications must be challenged. The violence they cause is unacceptable and cannot ever be condoned or tolerated. Rising fundamentalisms in many areas of the world are linked with geopolitics, systemic inequalities, militarism, displacement and other political and social factors. They have disastrous consequences for human rights, gender justice and women’s equality.

Our Approach

Greater strategizing and joint action across rights-based movements will increase our organizing power against fundamentalisms. In addition, reinforcing and protecting universal human rights will help to challenge States and groups who use religion, culture and tradition to avoid their human rights obligations. We ensure that rights advocates have access to high quality and strategic information and analysis from a feminist perspective. We also contribute to strategic thinking and dialogue and facilitate advocacy among women’s rights organizations, movements, and allies that cuts across generations, regions, issues and religious contexts to counter fundamentalisms.

Our Actions

  • Generating and sharing knowledge and information, including on the tactics and arguments that religious fundamentalist movements use to increase their power and influence, and the strategies that women’s rights activists employ to resist and counter them.

  • Convening spaces among key actors to build shared understandings of the issues, enhance capacities and strengthen responses to fundamentalisms across religions and regions.

  • Confronting religious fundamentalisms with our allies through advocacy at the UN and other international, regional and national spaces.

  • Coordinating a collaborative project, the Observatory on the Universality of Rights (OURs), that monitors, analyzes, and shares information on anti-rights initiatives threatening international and regional human rights systems


"Cultural Rights…are not an excuse for violations of other human rights. They do not justify discrimination or violence. They are not a licence to impose identities or practices on others or to exclude them from either in violation of international law."

- Karima Bennoune, United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights

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