Despite some progress over the last decade, Indigenous Peoples around the world continue to live in hardship and danger due to the failure of states to recognise and uphold their human rights.
Dispossessed and in danger
Indigenous Peoples are uprooted from their lands and territories as a consequence of discriminatory government policies, the impact of armed conflicts, and the actions of private economic interests.
Social marginalization and legal discrimination place Indigenous Peoples at risk of a wide range of human rights violations directed against community leaders, individuals and Indigenous Peoples as a whole.
Cut off from resources and traditions vital to their welfare and survival, many Indigenous Peoples are unable to fully enjoy their human rights. Instead they face marginalisation, poverty, disease and violence – in some instances extinction as a people.
Indigenous human rights defenders who speak out face intimidation and violence, often with the collaboration of the state. In many instances, peaceful support for efforts of Indigenous Peoples to maintain their own cultural identity or exercise control over their traditional lands and resources is branded treason or support for terrorism, leading to violent treatment at the hands of authorities.
With the disruption of traditional ways of life, Indigenous women may face particular challenges, losing status in their own society or finding that frustration and strife in the community is mirrored by violence in the household. For the growing numbers of Indigenous women who have migrated to urban settings or who live on land with a heavy military presence, racial and sexual discrimination in the larger society may lead to a heightened risk of violence and unequal access to justice. Indigenous women often face discrimination because of both their gender and their status as Indigenous Peoples.
It is estimated that 370 million individuals worldwide identify as Indigenous Peoples.
Data gathered by the US Department of Justice indicates that Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the USA in general.
A US Department of Justice study on violence against women concluded that 34.1 per cent of American Indian and Alaska Native women – or more than one in three – will be raped during their lifetime; the comparable figure for the USA as a whole is less than one in five.
Shocking though these statistics are, it is widely believed that they do not accurately portray the extent of sexual violence against Native American and Alaska Native women. See Amnesty International’s report, Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA.
What Amnesty International is doing
Amnesty International works with Indigenous Peoples around the globe to advance urgently needed laws and standards to protect their cultures and livelihoods. The most significant of these is the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in September 2007 after more than two decades of lobbying by Indigenous Peoples.
The Declaration reaffirms the right of Indigenous Peoples to have meaningful control over their own lives, to maintain their distinct cultural identities, to live free from discrimination and the threat of genocide, and to have secure access to the lands and resources essential to their well-being and ways of life.
Amnesty International is working with Native American and Alaska Native women to ensure that the US federal government fulfil their obligation to ensure that a national baseline study on violence against Indigenous women is conducted.
This baseline study will address the extent of violence and its nature; an assessment of the federal, state, tribal and local response to acts of violence, and the legislative and jurisdictional barriers that Indigenous women face in finding justice and redress.
Amnesty International members are campaigning to ensure that Native American and Alaska Native women survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence will have access to adequate and timely sexual assault forensic examinations without charge to the survivor.
This work is part of Amnesty International's Demand Dignity campaign, which aims to end the human rights violations that drive and deepen global poverty. The campaign will mobilize people all over the world to demand that governments, corporations and others who have power listen to the voices of those living in poverty and recognise and protect their rights. For more information visit the Demand Dignity section.