UN rights expert urges better treatment of indigenous women

UN rights expert urges better treatment of indigenous women

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[JURIST] The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples [official profile] spoke [unofficial dialogue report] Tuesday on the plight of women and girls in oft-neglected indigenous peoples’ communities. In a dialogue with the leaders of several nations, James Anaya made several recommendations [UN News Centre report] to increase awareness of the issue of treatment of women and girls that he highlighted in his annual report [text, PDF] to the Human Rights Council.

In a similar vein, combating violence against women and girls in the indigenous context must be achieved holistically; it cannot be addressed in isolation from the range of rights recognized for indigenous peoples in general. In this regard, violence against indigenous women and girls, which is distressingly all too common across the globe, cannot be seen as separate from the history of discrimination and marginalization that has been suffered invariably by indigenous peoples. This history manifests itself in continued troubling structural factors, such as conditions of poverty, lack of access to land and resources or other means of subsistence, or poor access to education and health services, which are all factors that bear on indigenous peoples with particular consequences for indigenous women. The history of discrimination against indigenous peoples has also resulted in the deterioration of indigenous social structures and cultural traditions, and in the undermining or breakdown of indigenous governance and judicial systems, impairing in many cases the ability of indigenous peoples to respond effectively to problems of violence against women and girls within their communities.

In addition to a holistic approach, Anaya recommended implementing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [official website], which was adopted by the General Assembly [JURIST report] in 2007. Both the US and Canada [JURIST reports] have pledged support for the declaration.

Last month, Anaya called on the US to consult with indigenous tribes [JURIST report] about the scheduled sale of land in the Black Hills region of the state. Anaya announced that he would visit the US in April to launch the UN’s first ever investigation into the rights situation of Native Americans [JURIST report]. Anaya’s goal was to look into the rights of Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians, and determine how the US’s endorsement of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has affected the rights of these groups of people.