Violence Against Native Women gaining global attention

Native women face greater rates of violence than any other group in the United States.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The epidemic proportions of violence against Native women in the United States continues to gain global attention.   The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will hold a hearing on Oct. 25, 2011 at 10:15 a.m. at the General Secretariat Building of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, D.C.  The Commission is an autonomous organ of the OAS, created by countries to protect human rights in the Americas.

“The right to be safe and live free from violence is a fundamental human right that many in the United States take for granted—but not Native women,” said Jana Walker, Director of the Safe Women, Strong Nation project at the Indian Law Resource Center.  “This is a human rights crisis that Indian country has been aware of for some time.  We are glad that the rest of the world is finally beginning to take notice.”

The Indian Law Resource Center along with the National Congress of American Indians Task Force on Violence Against Women, Clan Star, Inc., and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Inc. will present testimony.

According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, one out of three Native women will be raped in her lifetime, and three out of four will be physically assaulted.  “Indian women also are 2 ½ times more likely to experience violence than other women in the United States and, even more shocking, the vast majority of these violent crimes are committed by non-Indians,” said Juana Majel Dixon, First Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians and Co-Chair of the NCAI Task Force on Violence Against Women.

These shameful statistics are linked to systemic barriers imposed by United States law that prevents Indian nations from ensuring the safety of their citizens and adequately responding to crimes.  Unlike local communities or state governments, Indian nations and Alaska Native villages are legally prohibited from prosecuting non-Indians, and tribal courts have greatly restricted sentencing authority for offenders committing acts of sexual and domestic violence that occur within their tribal lands and communities.

“Jurisdictional restrictions, scarce resources for services to meet the needs of Native women especially those victimized by violence, and inadequate law enforcement responses all contribute to a flawed and unjust system,” said Lucy Simpson, Executive Director, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.  “Few Native women have access to culturally appropriate services and meaningful justice.  Even fewer will ever see their abusers prosecuted.”

“Mothers preparing daughters for what to do when they are raped is an outrageous reality that must end,” said Terri Henry, Councilwoman for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Co-chair of the NCAI Task Force on Violence Against Women.  “There is no question that violence against Native women has reached epidemic proportions.”  “The only question is when and how the United States will respond to these violations of its obligations under international human rights law.”

The panel will discuss topics ranging from U.S. law and policy that contributes to the human rights crisis, the jurisdictional challenges between tribes and the federal government in protecting Native women, and what needs to happen to bring the United States into full compliance with international human rights law.

The hearing is open to the public and can be viewed online through the Organization of American States’ web site.

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For more information contact: ILRC logo
Jana L. Walker
(406) 449-2006
email: jwalker@indianlaw.org

Partner Organizations

About the National Congress of American Indians

Contact: Katy Jackman, Attorney
(202) 466-7767, email: Katy_Jackman@NCAI.org

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments. As the collective voice of tribal governments in the United States, NCAI is dedicated to ending the epidemic of violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women. In 2003, NCAI created the NCAI Task Force on Violence Against Women to address and coordinate an organized response to national policy issues regarding violence against Indian women. The NCAI Task Force represents a national alliance of Indian nations and tribal organizations dedicated to the mission of enhancing the safety of American Indian and Alaska Native women.

 About Clan Star, Inc.
Contact: Terri Henry
(828) 497-5507

Clan Star, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization incorporated under the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in 2001, devoted to improving justice to strengthen the sovereignty of Indigenous women through legal, legislative, and policy initiatives, and, education and awareness. Clan Star provides technical assistance, training, and consultation throughout the United States to Indian tribes and tribal organizations in the development of public policy strategies addressing violence against women. For more information, visit www.clanstar.org.

About the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center
Contact: Lucy Simpson, Executive Director

Email: lsimpson@niwrc.org

The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) is a nonprofit organization that provides technical assistance, policy development, training, materials, and resource information for Indian and Alaska Native women, Native Hawaiians, and Native non-profit organizations addressing safety for Native women.  The NIWRC’s primary mission is to restore safety for Native women.  For more information, visit www.niwrc.org.

About the Indian Law Resource Center

Contact:  Jana L. Walker
email: jwalker@indianlaw.org

The Indian Law Resource Center is a non-profit law and advocacy organization established and directed by American Indians. The Center is based in Helena, Montana and also has an office in Washington, DC. We provide legal assistance to Indian and Alaska Native nations who are working to protect their lands, resources, human rights, environment, and cultural heritage. Our principal goal is the preservation and well-being of Indian and other Native nations and tribes.  For more information, visit www.indianlaw.org.

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