Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls
From 18 to 20 January 2012, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) held an International Expert Group Meeting at UN Headquarters entitled “Combating violence against indigenous women and girls: Article 22 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” This conference applied a human rights framework to the issue of gender‐ based violence faced by indigenous women, while contextualizing its global manifestations in the context of States’ responsibilities under international human rights law, as articulated in Article 22.2 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP): “States shall take measures, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.”
Focusing especially on issues of policing and jurisdiction, as well as outlining anti‐violence strategies, the experts sought to articulate a holistic approach to addressing violence against women that recognizes indigenous peoples’ ongoing struggles for self‐determination in the face of multidimensional discrimination and socioeconomic disadvantages. The panel characterized violence against indigenous women and girls as a pervasive form of human rights abuse, while drawing attention to the contemporary and historical contexts of indigenous communities and identifying steps towards the enhancement of their capacities and rights.
Vicky Tauli‐Corpuz, former Permanent Forum member on behalf of the UN entities UNICEF, UNFPA, UN Women, ILO, and WHO, began her discussion by analyzing case studies of maltreatment of indigenous women and children beginning in the colonial age. Her global overview, which included studies conducted by the UN, the US, Canada, and Australia, showed that indigenous groups suffer from higher rates of violence against women, most cases of which go underreported in developing countries. Forms of this abuse are manifested in child labour, rape, sexual slavery and trafficking, genital mutilation, and child marriage. Ms. Tauli‐Corpuz then related statistical descriptions of female genital mutilations in African groups such as the Maasai before concentrating on her native region, the Philippines, where violence against indigenous women makes up the highest percentage of violence in the country. Because indigenous groups in Southeast Asia lack civil rights and are often unable to attain birth certificates and access to government services, these groups (and especially the women and girls in them) are more vulnerable to forms of violence such as bonded labour and forced prostitution. This lack of proper civil documentation – compounded with insufficient disaggregated and documented data on violence experienced by indigenous communities – makes tracking, preventing, and punishing its occurrences even more difficult, Ms. Tauli‐Corpuz concluded.
Read more of the Expert Group Meeting.