At least 45 women and children were killed in the central Syrian city of Homs, CNN reported Monday, citing opposition activists. Some of the children were reportedly stabbed in front of their mothers, women and minor girls were sexually assaulted, and many of the bodies were found mutilated, according to the activists. The SANA state news agency said “terrorist armed groups” were responsible.

A Syrian women reacts after entering a make-shift morgue containing the bodies of mainly women and children in Homs. (AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

The massacre took place late Sunday on the heels of failed peace talks between a U.N. special envoy asking the Syrian regime to halt the violence against civilians. Syria has killed more than 7,500 people during the year-long uprising, according to the U.N.

As the violence in Syria continues, Syrian women are protesting alongside men in what may be growing numbers, according to the Daily Star, an English language newspaper edited in Beirut.

On Monday, a video posted by a women’s Kurdish group showed women protesting in the northwestern city of Aleppo. Elizabeth Tsurkov, an Israel-based activist and blogger on Middle East affairs, observed that it was the first time she had seen women, who were not wearing the hijab, protesting in Syria alongside men.

But women have been involved in the year-long uprising in Syria since its start, “even though they’re not as visible as men,” Rafif Jouejati, a spokesperson for Syria’s Local Coordination Committees, an umbrella opposition group, told the Daily Star.

“They document crimes against humanity ... establish relief committees, and they have been critical to civil resistance. They’re not just doing charity drives,” Jouejati said.

Prominent female Syrian activists include Suhair Atassi, a Damascus-based activist who last year organized sit-ins to demand the release of political prisoners; Razan Zaitouneh, a human rights lawyer who has defended victims of the conflict; and Razan Ghazzawi, a blogger who has written a steady stream of posts criticizing the government crackdown.

Actresses May Skaf and Fadwa Suleiman have also publicly denounced the regime’s violence. Suleiman released a video from hiding in November to plead for Syrians to unite against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad:

When the Nobel Peace Prize last year was awarded to three women from the Middle East and North Africa — Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman — the Nobel committee said in a statement: “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.”

Women chant anti-government slogans during a demonstration in Idlib in northern Syria on Friday. (Rodrigo Abd/AP)