Indigenous Peoples

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.

Key facts

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.

News and Updates

2 days to go: Burkina Faso Maternal Mortality Campaign: Follow the caravan on our geoblog

25 January 2010

Maternal death can be prevented. About a year ago, Amnesty International Burkina Faso was starting to plan the campaign and was already thinking of having a caravan to tour the country.

US and UN must guarantee Haiti emergency assistance

22 January 2010

US authorities and UN agencies in Haiti must urgently resolve the lack of access to emergency aid for those in desperate need following last week's earthquake.

5 days to go: Burkina Faso Maternal Mortality Campaign Countdown

22 January 2010

Safiatou died while trying to reach a health centre after delivering her baby at home. Safiatou's story is one of 50 cases that Amnesty International’s researchers investigated in-depth.

US continues to look the other way on 'war on terror' abuses

20 January 2010

President Obama's administration has failed to match its words with concrete action when it comes to accountability and remedy for human rights violations committed in the name of 'countering terrorism'.

Video and Audio

Teargas in Egypt's Tahrir Square

29 June 2011

Amnesty International's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui reports from demonstrations in Tahrir Square, Cairo.

World Habitat Day - Slideshow 2

World Habitat Day - Slideshow 2

Out of sight - In their own words

Maja was with her children on the day of the resettlement, and she describes here what conditions are like in the settlement of Rakovica...