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Violence against indigenous women, ‘legacy of colonialism’ rooted in racism

A indigenous mexican woman selling dolls in the streets of Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico.
Unsplash/Bernardo Ramonfaur
A indigenous mexican woman selling dolls in the streets of Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico.

Violence against indigenous women, ‘legacy of colonialism’ rooted in racism

Human Rights

Indigenous women and girls face grave, systematic, and continuous acts of violence that permeate every aspect of their lives, a UN-appointed independent rights expert said on Wednesday in a hard hitting report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva

“This violence is rooted in historic and unequal patriarchal power structures, racism, exclusion, and marginalization enabled by a legacy of colonialism,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Reem Alsalem, on Tuesday.

Stem ‘alarming’ impunity

Meanwhile, perpetrators continue to go free, without consequences.

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“The level of impunity…both State and non-State actors enjoy, is alarming, and the scale and seriousness of violence experienced by indigenous women and girls are inadequately reflected in data collection, legislation, or public policies,” Ms. Alsalem spelled out.

Although the right of indigenous women and girls to be free from violence is enshrined in international law, it has yet to materialize into effective prevention and protection measures by most States, added the Special Rapporteur.

Hiding in shadows

The UN expert warned that legal gaps and grey zones surrounding the accountability of non-State actors, also serves to fuel violence against indigenous women and girls.

Moreover, they experience systemic discrimination in both indigenous and non-indigenous justice systems, facing major barriers in accessing justice, according to her report.

Noting that levels of violence continue unabated with the “full knowledge and often the tacit agreement and support of States,” the independent expert underscored that wherever it occurs, “it must be addressed effectively to end impunity”.

‘Resilient actors’

The report presents an overview of the main causes and consequences of gender-based violence, and highlights good practices and challenges in indigenous women’s ability to access justice and support services.

It called on States to review the interplay of laws between governments and indigenous communities to decrease violence.

The analysis also provides recommendations for States and others to implement policy and legal reforms to help end the scourge.

“Indigenous women and girls must be entitled to full, equal and effective participation that goes beyond lip service and sees them as resilient actors rather than only as survivors of violence,” stressed the Special Rapporteur.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not paid for their work.