United Nations – Help Stop Violence Against Native Women

Nikki Finkbonner & Dawnadair Lewis

The National Congress of American Indians and Native American Rights Fund submitted two joint oral statements to the 29th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, June 15 – July 3, 2015. The two statements addressed violence against indigenous women in the context of the United Nations World Conference held last year. The statements included recommendations for carrying out decisions made in the World Conference outcome document, and were presented by Jana Walker, Senior Attorney, Indian Law Resource Center, on June 17 and 19.

The first oral statement*, Combating Violence Against Indigenous Women, included this information:

  • Indigenous women worldwide often suffer multiple forms of discrimination and disproportionate violence and murder not only because of their gender, but also because they are indigenous and members of indigenous peoples and communities.
  • American Indian and Alaska Native women are 2.5 times more likely to be assaulted than other women; one in three will be raped and three in five will be physically assaulted. Alaska Native women continue to suffer the highest rate of forcible sexual assault in America with “reported rates of domestic violence up to 10 times higher than in the rest of the United States.”
  • The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms the rights and needs of indigenous women and children, calling on States to ensure they enjoy full protections and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.
  • At the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous People, the United States delivered a joint statement by 35 countries expressing deep concern and calling for greater attention on addressing violence against indigenous women and girls.

The statement urged the Council to:

  • Hold a panel on this issue during its annual discussion on women’s rights.
  • Request a report from the Secretary- General with recommendations to enhance the mandates of its existing special procedures to request regular joint reports on this issue.

The second oral statement*, Combating Violence Against Indigenous Women By Implementing Decisions of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, included this information:

  • The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples calls on States to ensure that indigenous women enjoy full protection against all forms of violence and discrimination. Even so, indigenous women and girls continue to suffer from multiple forms of discrimination and disproportionate violence and murder.
  • Strong action is needed to end this violence including the United Nations developing a system-wide action plan to realize the ends of the Declaration with particular attention provided to the rights of indigenous women and children.

The statement recommended that the Council:

  • Hold a panel on the topic during its annual discussion on the rights of women.
  • Request a report from the Secretary-General with recommendations to enhance the mandates of existing special procedures to request regular joint reports on the issue.

The UN Human Rights Council concluded its 29th session after adopting 26 texts including this resolution:

(A/HRC/29/L.16/Rev.1) on accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women: eliminating domestic violence, adopted without a vote, the Council urges States to support initiatives aimed at promoting gender equality and at preventing, responding to, and protecting women and girls from domestic violence; and calls upon States to take effective action to prevent domestic violence, including by publicly condemning, addressing and penalizing perpetrators.

*Complete statements are available online.