In the context of the silent masses; indigenous women and girls….
Although limited, evidence gathered to date, on the risk factors and different manifestations of violence against indigenous women and girls must influence global agenda setting milestones, in particular the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and the post 2015 development framework. Violence against women and girls is globally recognized as a form of gender based discrimination deeply rooted in values of unequal power relations between males and females.
Violence against women and girls is a universal, unacceptable phenomenon, carrying grave consequences on victims and society.
The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women is protective of females of all ages. It defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary d eprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”.1 Its impact ranges from immediate to long-term multiple physical, sexual and psychological consequences on victims as well as tremendous setback to socio-economic development. In its different manifestations —physical, sexual, psychological and economic, the most common forms include domestic violence, (including intimate partner violence) harmful practices, femicide, sexual harassment, sexual violence in conflict, attacks on human rights defenders, forced pregnancy and forced abortion.
Indigenous women and girls suffer discrimination and exclusion based on their multiple identities, including membership of a wider group that is perennially confronted with violations of their right to self-determination.
Indigenous women and girl’s experiences of violence is closely linked to the history of poverty and exclusion of their wider communities – best contextualized in terms of the intersections of race, ethnicity, disability, age, sex and location and mutually reinforcing forms of inequalities. These conditions ensure that they do not benefit to the same extent as their non-indigenous counterparts from services which would otherwise protect them from violence and enhance their ability to seek redress when it does occur.
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), the Special Reporters on the rights of Indigenous peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples have consistently documented the adverse impacts of loss of rights over lands, territories, resources and self-determination over development priorities on the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. While infrastructural development is a fundamental necessity for the fulfillment of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights of all citizens, when such processes take place on the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples without their “free, prior and informed consent” and adequate compensation, the consequences are an erosion of these rights. Displacement, loss of livelihoods, forced migration and relocation increase the risk of trafficking and, economic and sexual exploitation. Indigenous girls and women are also at risk of violence in communities where intra-communal and inter-communal conflicts have arisen, as well as in those that conform to deeply-rooted patriarchal systems and practices that relegate women and girls to subordinate roles and positions in society. The protective environments afforded by both families and communities generally break down in circumstances of displacement, loss of livelihoods, forced migration and relocation.