UN Women Topic 2
Indigenous women and girls, gender-based violence, and access to justice
Following a report by Jose R. Martinez Cobo, the General Assembly adopted a universal framework intended to declare the minimum conditions for indigenous people to survive with dignity. The United Nations introduced this framework as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“United Nations Declaration”). This framework is rather extensive; however, one of the minimum conditions recognized is that all human rights recognized by the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the rest of international human rights law extend to indigenous peoples. (FAQs). Among this framework of rights, the General Assembly paid particular attention to more vulnerable communities among indigenous populations, such as women and children. Since September 13, 2007, the UN has taken it upon itself to ensure the well-being of indigenous people worldwide (“United Nations Declaration”). In doing so, addressing indigenous women and girls’ challenges concerning gender-based violence and access to justice is crucial.
At the same time, it is essential to be conscious of UN Sustainable Development Goal 5. This is one of the seventeen goals the UN adopted in 2015, which act as a blueprint for member states to work towards a better tomorrow (“Do you know all 17 SDGs?”). Sustainable Development Goal 5 is relevant to this body as it seeks to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” (“Goal 5”). Within this larger goal, there are several targets or subgoals. The most important one to note is target 5.2, which seeks to “eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation” (“Goal 5”). Recognizing both UNDRIP and Sustainable Development Goal 5 Target 5.2, it became clear that the protection of indigenous women from gender-based violence is a priority of the UN.
Indigenous women and girls have the unfortunate experience of being discriminated against based on gender and ethnicity simultaneously. Some of the inequalities these women face due to their intersecting identities include but are not limited to: increased poverty levels coupled with decreased access to education, health, and economic resources, and finally, less political participation (“United Nations Development”). These experiences create roadblocks for indigenous women who are experiencing gender-based violence. Because of these setbacks, indigenous women have more difficulty accessing resources to seek justice and support than indigenous men and non-indigenous women. For instance, because an indigenous woman has decreased access to education, she may lack the knowledge to employ protective measures. These protective measures may look like filing a restraining order or seeking moral support during high stress. Both processes require that the indigenous woman be educated enough to know these protections exist and where to locate them.
Indigenous women are uniquely situated to experience discrimination not just because they are a woman or indigenous person but rather because they are both. Some resources to combat gender violence that may help non-indigenous women may not be accessible to indigenous women, or measures to help indigenous men may not apply to indigenous women. Because of this marginalization, it is imperative to recognize indigenous women and girls’ challenges as they seek justice for gender-based violence.
To ensure that UNDRIP and UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 are upheld and fully realized, the task of this Committee is to create resolutions to eradicate gender-based violence, specifically against indigenous women. Achieving this goal will require that representatives evaluate the accessibility to justice that indigenous women and girls possess.
- Does your country have an indigenous population? Are they a minority or majority population in your country?
- How has your country treated those indigenous populations? What policies have been passed or enacted over the years related to your country’s indigenous people? Have these policies been positive or negative for your country’s indigenous population?
- What role do women play in those indigenous communities?
- What is your country already doing to uphold UNDRIP and Sustainable Development Goal 5?
- Do indigenous women in your country experience some form of gender-based violence more than others?
Resources to Consider:
- Martinez Cobo, Jose R. “Study of the Problem of Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations.” United Nations Economic and Social Council, 24 May 1984, https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/MCS_xx_en.pdf Accessed 14 June 2022
- “State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (SOWIP) Report.” Department of Economic and Social Affairs, https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/publications/state-of-the-worlds-indigenous-peoples.html Accessed on 14 June 2022.
- “Ending violence against women: From words to action.” United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), 2006, https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2006/1/ending-violence-against-women-from-words-to-action-study-of-the-secretary-general#:~:text=The%20UN%20Secretary%2DGeneral’s%20in,all%20parts%20of%20the%20world Accessed 14 June 2022.
“Do you know all 17 SDGs?” Department of Economic and Social Affairs, https://sdgs.un.org/goals Accessed 9 August 2022.
“FAQs.” United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/declaration-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples.html Accessed 14 June 2022.
“Goal 5.” Department of Economic and Social Affairs, https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal5 Accessed 9 August 2022.
“Practical Table and Checklist of Key Issues and Related Human Rights.” United Nations Development Group, https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/UNDG_guidelines_EN.pdf Accessed 14 June 2022.
“United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/declaration-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples.html Accessed 14 June 2022.