The right to protest: the need for an intersectional and transfeminist approach

The right to social protest is recognised and protected by international human rights law and implies specific obligations for states. In recent years, international and regional protection mechanisms have further developed standards for the handling of protests from a human rights perspective. In particular, they have referred to the need for specific actions in regard to certain higher-risk groups, such as women and LGBT+ persons.

In spite of the above, states do not seem to fulfil their obligation to adopt a differential approach; rather, there have been numerous violations of the rights of women and LGBT+ persons in the context of protests, which affect their possibility of exercising their right to expression, assembly and demonstration, as well as the exercise of their role as human rights defenders. 

Different types of violence occur due to the gender of activists or protesters, which increases the vulnerability and risk of protesters who are already subject to institutional violence. These gender-based types of violence cover a wide spectrum of situations that take on different modalities in the different scenarios. Some examples are the stigmatisation by authorities; verbal, physical and sexual aggression; the improper use of criminal law to criminalize them; legal limitations on the exercise of the right to protest. It is also worth highlighting that these situations are exacerbated when there are intersectionalities, such as women or LGBT+ persons who are black, brown or Afro-descendant, rural or indigenous, or who live in rural areas or working-class neighbourhoods.

This adverse scenario for the right to protest is intensified by the insufficiency or absence of institutional responses. This condition is a consequence of both the androcentric logics of the bureaucracies involved and of the insufficient research on the specific nature of these violations and a constant absence of gender and intersectional perspective. 

This document contains the surveys conducted on this issue and proposes possible actions towards a more complete elaboration of standards for the management of protests from an intersectional and transfeminist perspective.  


1. Introduction
2. Methodology and countries analysed
3. The right to protest
4. Violations of the right to protest in the region
Types of protest repression
a. Stigmatisation and stereotyping of the fights of cis women and LGBT+ persons
b. Discriminatory and stereotypically-based verbal attacks
c. Digital violence
d. Police operations and the use of force
e. Arrests and transfers. The worst moment of violence
f. Sexual violence as a sobering mechanism
g. Violence against trans women
h. Criminalisation of protesters, women leaders and activists
i. Military intervention
5. The institutional response
6. Patriarchy runs through us: the invisibility of other forms of gender-based violence
7. Final Reflections

ANNEX I – Legal framework
ANNEX II – Sources and references

Autor/a: Luciana Pol (general coordination) Cynthia Palacios Reckziegel and Lucía Morale (fieldwork, reaserch coordination, and text)
42 pgs.
Editorial: CELS