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Keith Harper: Eliminating violence against indigenous women

Filed Under: Opinion | World
More on: keith harper, un, undrip, violence, women

Ambassador Keith Harper speaks at the United Nations. Photo from Twitter

The following in the text of a statement from Ambassador Keith Harper, a member of the Cherokee Nation, to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Delivered June 24, 2014, in Geneva.

I have the honor to make this statement on behalf 35 countries.

[Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, Congo, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, St Kitts and Nevis, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.]

As we prepare for the upcoming World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, we express great concern that indigenous women and girls often suffer multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and poverty that increase their vulnerability to all forms of violence. We also stress the need to seriously address the high and disproportionate rates of violence, which takes many forms, against indigenous women and girls worldwide. Indigenous women and girls have the same human rights and fundamental freedoms as everyone else, and a common recognition of those rights must underpin efforts to address violence against indigenous women and girls.

Improving access to justice and empowering indigenous peoples are critical to this effort. We recognize that indigenous peoples themselves may well be in the best position to combat violence against indigenous women and girls. They are closer and better able to address the issue when provided with tools and the legal capability to stop the violence. We will strive to, and encourage other states to, where appropriate, enable and empower indigenous peoples to better address these issues themselves by providing resources, adopting legislation and policies, and taking other necessary steps in an effort to stop the cycle of violence that affects them. We also stress the need for coordination and dialogue between state and indigenous justice institutions to improve access to justice for indigenous women and girls and to enhance awareness campaigns, including ones directed at men and boys.

Ending the global scourge of violence against indigenous women and girls will also require comprehensive support services for survivors and improved data collection to illuminate the scope of the problem. It will demand intensified measures to provide accountability for perpetrators and redoubled efforts to prevent abuse. It will also entail improvements in indigenous women’s access to birth registration. Respecting and promoting reproductive rights – including the right to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence, and access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services – must be integral to our efforts to end violence against indigenous women and girls.

We believe the topic of violence against indigenous women and girls requires greater attention. We encourage the relevant UN mechanisms to recommend ways to use the UN’s existing tools more effectively to prevent and address this serious problem. We also believe the upcoming World Conference on Indigenous Peoples should consider this problem and ways to heighten awareness and respond to this concern throughout the UN system. The meaningful participation of indigenous representatives in the World Conference and its preparatory process will be essential in this regard.

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