Monday, December 17, 2018

Investigations from an intercultural and gender-based perspective 9/20


Chapter 5 C and D. 


150. The IACHR has noted that indigenous women and girls are caught in a situation of particular risk because of obstacles they face in seeking justice, which is further exacerbated by States’ failure to provide differential procedures and care to meet their specific needs in the area of justice.361 Officials in charge of receiving complaints and conducting investigations do not usually take into consideration the particularities of the victims.362 

151. The IACHR has held that States have the duty to establish and run judicial systems in accordance with the cultural diversity of indigenous peoples, which means they must provide sufficient economic and material resources for the judiciary to function, as well as offer intercultural training to the operators of justice, which includes education on indigenous cultures and identities. 363 It has also highlighted that States must, through the administration of justice, “incorporate the specific needs of indigenous women in their actions, respecting their cultural identity, ethnicity, language, and idiosyncrasy, even creating systems and methods of collecting evidence from the perspective of their culture in cases of violence.”364 

152. For example, during the thematic hearing on the situation of human rights of indigenous women in Nicaragua held in 2014, the IACHR was informed of the State’s failure to incorporate an intercultural approach in Nicaraguan courts.365 The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala has reiterated concern over the fact that the institutions charged with administering justice have not yet accepted ethnic and linguistic diversity as a fundamental element in the performance of their duties, which has especially affected women in rural areas and those who speak indigenous languages.366 With respect to sexual violence, the IACHR has previously stressed States’ duty to act with the required due diligence for the prevention, punishment, and reparation of such acts, taking into consideration the worldview and the cultural and community perspective of indigenous women.367 

153. The Mexican State reported in its response to the questionnaire that the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (“SCJN”) has designed the Protocol for Prosecution with a Gender-based Perspective and the Protocol for administrators of justice in cases involving the rights of indigenous persons, communities and peoples, in an attempt to address the gender and ethnicitybased discrimination that is so widespread in Mexico.368 The adoption of these protocols represents a step forward in ensuring access to justice from an intercultural and gender-based perspective. Nonetheless, the IACHR was subsequently informed that these protocols were not mandatory, and that further guidelines are required to adapt their application to the particular situation of indigenous women.369 

154. The State of Colombia reported that it has created the Casas de Justicia program, which includes a strategic course of action called the Public Policy for Access to Justice through an Ethnic Component Strategic Line, with a view to promoting access to justice in a differential way through respect for the particularities of each indigenous people in the country.370 It also indicated that it enacted Law 1381 of 2010 on native languages, creating instruments for the entities of the national and local government to provide the members of indigenous peoples with interpreters or translators.371 The Colombian Constitutional Court recognized in several follow-up orders to Judgment T025 of 2004 the need for State institutions to adapt their policies to the specific age, gender, and ethno-cultural needs of the populations affected by internal displacement and other victims of the armed conflict.372 

155. The Commission observes that in the responses to the questionnaire prepared by the IACHR, no State indicated that it had any system or procedures in place to collect evidence that incorporates the vision, culture, and perspective of indigenous women in cases pertaining to discrimination and violence against them. The responses only mentioned the existence of laws to eradicate violence and discrimination against women, as well as guidelines and protocols to address violence and promote equality, but none that concretely address the particular needs of indigenous women in the sphere of investigation and evidence-gathering.373 


D. Multidisciplinary Perspective 

156. In order to ensure access to justice for indigenous women, a multidisciplinary approach must be adopted, since the respect for their cultural and ethnic identity, language and particular characteristics is essential in this context. For this reason, the work of interpreters, translators, anthropologists, psychologists, healthcare professionals, among others is important. 374 The IACHR has voiced special concern because forensic medical and legal expert examinations do not ensure respect for indigenous customs in cases of sexual offenses. 375 In the interest of addressing this issue, the IACHR has indicated that States need to create systems and procedures for culturally appropriate expert examination in cases involving indigenous women.376 With regard to sexual violence, the IACHR has found that States’ duty to protect is comprehensive and encompasses both a public health and a legal approach, in which the State must meet the needs of the victims, including effectively addressing the physical and psychological consequences of sexual violence.377 

157. The Commission acknowledges that it is crucial to have a variety of professionals available in order to render the process in the courts culturally appropriate. Interpreters guarantee effective communication and understanding of the court proceedings. In addition, other experts in the field of social sciences such as legal anthropologists or psychologists may also be required to inform the court about the worldviews of a specific indigenous community, the particular cultural beliefs which may influence behavior (in the courtroom and in society), the practices which may influence the suitability of a sentence or of a reparation, and the specific effects of a measure or decision on an indigenous community. However, the Commission continues to receive reports indicating that this multidisciplinary approach is not implemented in national courts. For instance, the IACHR has received information indicating that during judicial proceedings in Mexico, contextual information about the indigenous people to which the woman belongs, or about its worldview, is usually not taken into consideration. 378 Introduction of anthropological expert opinion evidence from a gender-based perspective is still not a widespread practice in judicial proceedings.379 

158. Additionally, even though interpreters and translators play an essential role in access to justice for indigenous women, the IACHR has received information to the effect that they are often not made available by the States. The State of El Salvador indicated that the court system did not have interpreters of its own and, therefore, when such assistance was necessary, judicial officials had to obtain it from outside agencies or institutions.380 The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico identified in a sampling of 586 cases of indigenous persons deprived of their liberty in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico, that 84% had not been assisted by a translator at any time during their case proceedings.381 Similarly, in a study conducted by the National Women’s Institute in 2011, it was found that most indigenous women deprived of liberty in the States of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Veracruz were not accompanied by a translator or interpreter, and in the instances when they did receive assistance, the interpreter or translator was unfamiliar with the culture and customs of the person being charged.382 

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Main obstacles to access justice encountered by indigenous women 8/20

Chapter 5B.

139. Indigenous women and girls face a variety of obstacles in their access to justice, most of which are closely connected to the discrimination, marginalization, and vulnerability to which they have been subjected historically. Discrimination in the official justice system, coupled with the high rates of marginalization and physical, emotional, and sexual violence they are subjected to, contributes to impeding their access to justice.329 Laws, public policies and programs aimed at addressing the particular issues faced by indigenous women, as a specific population group, are in short supply, inasmuch as most of them tend to be targeted toward either indigenous peoples or towards women in general.330 As the IACHR has underscored in its report Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in British Columbia, Canada, States must first conduct consultation processes with indigenous women and then adopt the necessary initiatives, programs, and policies considering their needs and concerns.331 

140. The obstacles most affecting indigenous women’s access to justice in the Americas are geographic, economic, cultural, and linguistic. The IACHR has noted in the past that geographic remoteness of indigenous territories and the lack of State services may force indigenous women to walk, sometimes for several days, in order to get to the nearest city to file a complaint, which also poses additional problems in introducing evidence to sustain their claims.332 In its response to the questionnaire, the State of El Salvador indicated that one of the measures implemented to ensure indigenous women’s physical access to the institutions of justice was to introduce “Justices of the Peace” courts throughout the country.333 

141. When women arrive in the towns or cities where the authorities are located, they also face economic problems, feel uncomfortable in an urban setting, and lack command of the language used in the courts of law.334 It is very often the case that indigenous women are not provided interpreters for some or all of the proceedings, and are also confronted with the ethnic and cultural insensitivity of the operators of justice. 335 Additionally, justice officials are frequently unfamiliar with international human rights instruments of a collective and individual scope which are applicable to indigenous peoples, and rarely apply the ethical framework of women’s human rights.336 As such, many complaints to the authorities will simply be dismissed or set aside, even before an investigation has taken place. 

142. In this regard, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (hereinafter “CERD”) has voiced its concern over the failure of the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Ethnic Groups and Cultural Heritage of Honduras to investigate, prosecute, and punish allegations of crimes against indigenous and afro-descendent people. Consequently, said Committee urged Honduras to take the necessary measures to ensure access to justice of indigenous peoples, both individually and collectively depending on the circumstances.337 Likewise, CERD noted its concern over the difficulties encountered by indigenous peoples in Guatemala to gain access to justice, particularly because of the failure to recognize and apply the indigenous legal system, as well as the lack of sufficient interpreters and courtappointed defense attorneys.338 The United Nations Human Rights Council has also taken a position to this effect, regretting the lack of interpreters in Guatemala and urging the State to “take any measures that may be necessary to enable access to justice for all in their own language, by adopting effective policies to hire bilingual officials, by creating the number of interpreter positions as required, and adequately training professionals to perform the appropriate duties.”339 The IACHR also insisted in its 2016 country report on Guatemala that “[i]n a country with a large indigenous population, one of the key issues for the Commission is bilingual access to justice, which presupposes ensuring that in the state justice system indigenous persons can be heard in their own language and can express themselves fluently in the criminal proceeding, in accordance with the right recognized in Article 8(2)(a) of the American Convention and Article 12 of ILO Convention 169”. 340 Regarding El Salvador, CERD has noted the difficulties that indigenous peoples encounter in attempting to gain access to justice, stemming from the high cost of litigation, and the lack of judicial services in remote areas.341 

143. While the above-cited problems affect indigenous peoples in general, based on a diagnostic assessment of indigenous peoples in Central American conducted by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Asociación de Investigación y Estudios Sociales (ASIES), indigenous women and girls are least able to exercise their right to access to justice, in both the official and the indigenous justice systems.342 The CEDAW Committee has expressed its concern over the situation unfolding in Argentina, where even though “legislation provides for women’s access to justice, their actual ability to exercise that right and bring cases of discrimination before the courts is limited by factors such as a lack of information on their rights, linguistic barriers, especially for indigenous women, and other structural difficulties in accessing the courts.” 343 Likewise, the CEDAW Committee has voiced its concern over the fact that in Costa Rica, indigenous women had limited access to free legal assistance services. 344 The Committee has also urged Honduras to provide legal assistance and eliminate all impediments standing in the way of women who resort to courts, including fees for bringing actions and filing suits, as well as protracted delays in judicial proceedings.345 
  
  144. The Inter-American Commission has received information from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala indicating that indigenous women in that country do not usually report it when they are victims of intrafamily or sexual violence and of other violations, because they may be unaware of their rights, are concerned about being victims of further assaults, receive threats on their families, or are ashamed because of what their community will say.346 These women have also claimed that they are afraid of being ignored and mistreated by judicial officials. When the women have opted to report these crimes, the lack of adequate and timely access to justice ends up making them feel guilty for doing so because it affects their families.347 As has been noted above, the IACHR has observed that in many regions of the country, these indigenous women are unable to be understood in their own language, which adversely affects them whether they appear as victims, or as defendants charged with committing an alleged offense.348 

145. The CEDAW Committee has expressed concerned over how unaware indigenous women in Guatemala are about their rights.349 For this reason, it has called on the State of Guatemala to take proactive measures to deal with the problem, such as creating general basic legal education programs, which take into account illiteracy and the languages these women speak.350 By doing so, indigenous women can have the tools to learn about their rights and acquire the ability to exercise them. In light of a similar situation in Honduras, the CEDAW Committee recommended that the State conduct sustained legal awareness and public education campaigns in order to encourage and empower women.351 

146. Obstacles faced by indigenous women and girls in accessing justice have also been underscored by the Inter-American Court in the cases of Rosendo Cantú v. Mexico and Fernández Ortega v. México, as indicated earlier. In the case of Valentina Rosendo Cantú, the Inter-American Court ruled that the State had obstructed her access to justice by not providing her with timely and specialized medical care when she filed the complaint, and for not acting with due diligence to investigate and punish the rape of which she was the victim.352 The Court identified certain omissions and failures committed by the State in the investigation, such as not providing Valentina Rosendo Cantú the assistance of an interpreter and, therefore, requiring her husband to give her statement; and not ensuring that, in filing the complaint of rape, minimum conditions of privacy were respected, as required when this type of offense is involved.353 

147. In both this case and that of Inés Fernández Ortega, because it was impossible for them to report and receive information in their language, the Inter-American Court held that their situation of vulnerability  based on their language and ethnicity  was not taken into consideration, which amounted to a de facto infringement of their right to access to justice.354 The Court also emphasized that States have the obligation to refrain from taking actions, which directly or indirectly create situations of de jure or de facto discrimination.355 

148. Some States of the hemisphere have institutions designed to ensure access to justice for women; however, so far, this has not translated into an actual improvement in the situation of indigenous women. With regard to Honduras, the CEDAW Committee has voiced concern because, despite the existence of an Office of the Special Prosecutor for Women, women continue to encounter obstacles in bringing cases of discrimination before the courts, due to factors such as poverty, lack of legal assistance, and information about their rights, as well as the attitudes of justice officials.356 The IACHR has received information from civil society indicating that the special police station for women, the Comisaría de la Mujer, does not always complete the process of filing complaints brought by indigenous women; rather, when cases are postponed and women do not follow up, they simply close the case files.357 

149. The Commission also underscores that discrimination and the barriers to adequately access justice also have serious judicial consequences on indigenous women, in terms of their over-representation in the prison population. For example, as documented in the report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in British Columbia, Canada, statistics from 2008-2009 reveal that “Indigenous women represent 28% of women incarcerated and 37% of women sentenced to prison, although they only constitue approximately 4% of the Canadian adult population.”358 These statistics were far worse for indigenous female youth in Canada, with “[…] indigenous female youth [representing] 6% of the Canadian female population yet 44% of the female youth in custody.”359 In fact, data on the indigenous prison population suggests that the incarceration of women has become significantly higher than that of men, confirming that the intersectionality of discrimination affects indigenous women specifically increasing their vulnerability and lack of access to justice.360 
  

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

ACCESS TO JUSTICE FOR INDIGENOUS WOMEN 7/20


133. Although many States in the Americas have enacted legislation which provides for access to justice for women on an equal footing with men, and which also prohibits discrimination based on ethnicity, in practice however, this right is usually not guaranteed effectively for indigenous women.319 Access to justice for indigenous women tends to be hampered by geographic, economic, cultural and linguistic barriers, all closely connected to the intersection of the multiple forms of discrimination they experience, as noted above. Article XXII, section 3, of the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples establishes that States will provide indigenous peoples with “equal protection and benefit of the law, including the use of linguistic and cultural interpreters.” However, this undertaking is far from attained in practice. 

134. Indigenous women face obstacles in both national and indigenous justice systems. In national justice systems, there are usually no adequate or accessible mechanisms in place for indigenous women and racism is still a common practice.320 In indigenous systems, men tend to be the primary decision-makers in institutions, which curtails the participation and incidence of women.321 The IACHR notes that the two systems must follow internationally recognized human rights and, consequently, both systems must include measures guaranteeing compliance with the obligations of prevention, investigation, punishment and reparation.322 

135. The following chapter is divided in five different sections. The first section touches upon the substance of the right to access to justice for indigenous women; the second section identifies the structural obstacles faced by indigenous women in state justice systems; the third section highlights the need to address access to justice for indigenous women from a multidisciplinary perspective; and the fourth section describes reparations from an intercultural and gender-based perspective, which aim to involve indigenous women, grant both individual and collective reparations, and to be transformative in the lives of these women. The fifth section describes the situation of indigenous justice systems, identifying obstacles and some good practices that have emerged throughout the region, as well as underscoring the human rights obligations these systems are required to meet. 


  A. Right of Access to Justice 
136. Access to justice has been defined by the IACHR as the “de jure and de facto access to judicial bodies and remedies for protection in cases of acts of violence, in keeping with the international human rights standards.” 323 Moreover, “the State’s duty to provide judicial remedies is not fulfilled merely by making those remedies available to victims on paper; instead, those remedies must be adequate to remedy the human rights violations denounced.”324 In other words, they must be available and effective in law and in practice. 

137. Effective access to justice for indigenous women can only be achieved if two major obligations are fulfilled by the State: firstly, respect for the standard of due diligence, which requires the prevention, investigation, punishment, and redress of human rights violations against indigenous women; and secondly, the implementation of intercultural, gender-based, and multidisciplinary perspectives in the judicial system. The legal precedents of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have emphasized that in order to ensure access to justice for members of indigenous communities, it is vital for States to grant effective protection that takes into account their particularities, social and economic characteristics, as well as their situation of special vulnerability, and their values and customs.325 Moreover, in order to confront obstacles to adequately access justice, States have the obligation to ensure support for indigenous women from a gender-based perspective and in consideration of their circumstances of special risk to human rights violations.326 The IACHR has underscored that effective access of indigenous peoples to judicial protection and due process of the law under the Convention is especially important given the context of historical and structural discrimination they experience.327 Such protection must also be available in consonance with their culture and traditions, and guaranteed free from all forms of discrimination. 

138. The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the United Nations Human Rights Council has emphasized that the situation of access to justice for indigenous women must be addressed from a holistic perspective, inasmuch as access to justice is inextricably linked to other obstacles to human rights, which are often encountered by indigenous peoples, such as poverty, lack of access to health and education, as well as a lack of recognition of their right to land, territory and natural resources.32

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Human Rights Day – December 10

Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, (United States) holding a Declaration of Human Rights


As the Chair of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Eleanor Roosevelt was the driving force in creating the 1948 charter of liberties which will always be her legacy: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. [...] Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world." -- Eleanor Roosevelt


Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The formal inception of Human Rights Day dates from 1950, after the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V) inviting all States and interested organizations to adopt 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.

When the General Assembly adopted the Declaration, with 48 states in favor and eight abstentions, it was proclaimed as a "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations", towards which individuals and societies should "strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance". Although the Declaration with its broad range of political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights is not a binding document, it inspired more than 60 human rights instruments which together constitute an international standard of human rights. Today the general consent of all United Nations Member States on the basic Human Rights laid down in the Declaration makes it even stronger and emphasizes the relevance of Human Rights in our daily lives.

https://www.ohchr.org/en/aboutus/pages/humanrightsday.aspx
https://www.humanrights.com/voices-for-human-rights/eleanor-roosevelt.html
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Saturday, December 8, 2018

VIOLENCE AGAINST INDIGENOUS WOMEN: STRUCTURAL, INDIVIDUAL, AND COLLECTIVE DIMENSIONS 6/20


CHAPTER 4 B. Manifestations of Violence against Indigenous Women

87. The Commission has received information in public hearings, expert meetings, country visits and questionnaires, among other methods, confirming that violence against indigenous women is perpetrated by State and non-state actors, and by indigenous and non-indigenous individuals in various contexts. Violence is often perpetrated against indigenous women during armed conflicts; the implementation of development, investment, and extractive projects; the militarization of their territories; situations of deprivation of liberty; within the family or domestic sphere; and in connection with their involvement in the defense of their human rights. In this section, the report will describe some of the different contexts in which violence is perpetrated against indigenous women, reflecting on the perpetrators, victims, and forms of violence in each context.

1. Violence in the context of armed conflict 



88. The IACHR reiterates that armed conflicts increase the vulnerability of marginalized people and groups to human rights violations, creating scenarios for indigenous women to be disproportionately targeted by State and non-state armed actors. The Commission has noted that, during an armed conflict, “all circumstances that have historically exposed women to discrimination and to receive an inferior treatment” are exacerbated, and “exploited and manipulated by the actors of the armed conflict in their struggle to control territory and economic resources.”186
89. Numerous types of violence have been used against indigenous women in the context of the armed conflicts that have taken place in the Americas, including acts of sexual violence, sexual slavery, murders, and disappearances. These acts of violence not only constitute violations of the rights to life and personal integrity of indigenous women, but also jeopardize
their physical and cultural survival.187 Examples from Guatemala, Colombia, Peru and El Salvador will be discussed in this section to exemplify the multiple forms of discrimination and violence suffered by indigenous women during armed conflicts.

90. The Commission notes that indigenous Mayan women were “specifically targeted by members of the military during the armed conflict in Guatemala,” 188 and constituted “approximately a quarter of the direct victims of human rights violations and acts of violence.”189 The Commission for Historical Clarification stated that the indigenous Mayan peoples were targeted for “extermination en masse,” including their women, children and elderly.190 The tactics used were of the most egregious cruelty and of the “most outrageous brutality,” 191 atrocities ranging from rape, torture, amputations, eviscerations, massacres, scorched earth operations, to the opening of the wombs of pregnant women. 192 It was observed that “the loathing and debasement of indigenous women in military parlance during the armed confrontation reached such extremes that women came to be regarded as meat.”193

91. The majority of the rape victims during the armed conflict in Guatemala were indigenous Mayan women.194 These acts of violence were perpetrated in the context of a broader campaign to destroy the culture and identity of the Mayan people, involving the destruction of sacred places, cultural symbols and ceremonial centers, repression of indigenous language, culture and dress, and the brutal killing of elders, with the aim of disrupting their social order and way of life.195 The Commission on Truth and Reconciliation of Guatemala concluded that these acts – committed with the intent to destroy the Mayan people of Guatemala in whole or in part – constituted a crime of genocide.196 It should also be noted that quite recently, in the Sepur Zarco case, national courts in Guatemala have found the sexual slavery of indigenous women during the conflict to constitute a crime against humanity.197 

92. As indicated earlier, the Inter-American Court has addressed the massacre of indigenous Mayan peoples in the cases of Plan de Sánchez Massacre, Massacre of Río Negro and “Las Dos Erres” Massacre, where the State of Guatemala was held internationally responsible for the grave human rights violations committed by members of the armed forces against Mayan communities.198 The specific effects suffered by the indigenous women because of these human rights violations were underscored by the Court when determining the responsibility of the State and granting reparations to the victims and their families. 199 As an emblematic case of violence perpetrated against indigenous women in the armed conflict, the Commission also recalls the decision of the Inter-American Court in the case of Tiu Tojín to hold the State of Guatemala internationally responsible for the forced disappearance of María Tiu Tojín and her daughter, found to be perpetrated by members of the military.200

93. In relation to the situation in Colombia, the Commission has observed that indigenous women and their leaders are often victims of violence and discrimination in the armed conflict.201 The troubling information presented in the Commission’s 2014 report on Colombia continues a trend in the country documented in the Commission's previous reports on Colombia in 2006 and 2009, as can be seen in the most recent press releases of the  Commission on Colombia.202 Both the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and the IACHR have documented that these violent acts against indigenous women have been perpetrated by “agents of the State, members of post-demobilization paramilitary groups, and members of the FARC-EP and the National Liberation Army.”203 Indigenous women from Colombia have expressed to the Commission in the past: “We don’t want any more widowed women, more orphans, we want to return to our lands.”204

94. The Commission has found that in Colombia, indigenous women are subjected to sexual enslavement, forced pregnancy, gang-rapes, sexual mutilation, and killings by various actors of the armed conflict.205 Rape and sexual violence against indigenous women are used as weapons of war by armed actors206 to both forcibly displace communities or to erode the communities’ capacity for resistance.207 The Commission recognizes that indigenous women are most exposed to these acts of sexual violence because of the multiple forms of discrimination they face and the vulnerable nature of their territories.208 Indigenous women and their leaders often are the targets of murder and disappearances during armed conflicts. The Commission notes how armed actors use selective murders and disappearances as a war tactic in order to disrupt the cohesion of the community by depriving it of its leaders and to instill fear in the indigenous  communities for taking up the causes of the murdered leaders or for opposing any kind of resistance.209

95. The consequences of the violence committed in the context of armed conflict places indigenous communities at grave risk. Given the strategic aim of intimidation and disruption of indigenous communities and the unique role of indigenous women within their communities, the Commission has observed that the sexual violence, murders, and forced disappearances in the armed conflict in Colombia have jeopardized the “physical and cultural existence of indigenous peoples.”210 The Commission considers that the fact that women are the targets of the attacks against these communities further “aggravates the cultural, spiritual and physical equilibrium already in jeopardy” due to the unique role of indigenous women.211

96. The Commission has welcomed the signing of peace accords in Colombia as an indispensable step towards peace, which is a necessary precondition for the full respect of human rights. In this context, the Commission has taken note of positive measures adopted to include the perspectives of women in these processes, but also observes that indigenous women face enormous barriers in having their voices heard. The Commission also notes that, despite the positive measures implemented by the State of Colombia to enforce specialized protocols for the protection of women human rights defenders, indigenous women who organize to defend their rights continue to be the target of high levels of violence and harassment in the country.212 They are crucial actors for the peace process and its follow-up, and it is crucial that they be included and that their voices are heard.

97. The State of Peru also suffered an internal armed conflict between the Peruvian government and illegal armed groups—the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement—which has had dire consequences on women and indigenous women in particular. The Commission and the Court have processed cases related to the widespread use of sexual violence by Peruvian state agents as a weapon of war and the situation of impunity     that existed during the armed conflict in Peru.213 It is worth noting that the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission established that the indigenous population amounted to 75% of the victims during the conflict in Peru.214 The Commission also granted a hearing on the National Reparations Plan in Peru, in which it received information on, among other topics, the situation of indigenous women in Peru who had been and continued to be exposed to sexual violence, and whose marginalization persisted over time because of the lack of a gender perspective in the reparations program. The requesting organizations argued that the reparations program excluded women’s concerns, focused exclusively on financial reparations, and in many ways re-victimized women.215


98. In the decision Massacres of El Mozote and Nearby Places v. El Salvador, the Court found that the State had conducted military operations between December 11 and 13, 1981 in various communities of the northern part of the department of Morazán, leading to massacres, the used of rape as a means of torture, and the setting to fire of homes, possessions and animals; all human rights violations leading to internal displacements.216 The Court found that these acts of sexual violence jeopardized the rights to life, personal integrity, and privacy of the women affected. An investigation was opened into these events, yet it was halted based on the Law of General Amnesty for the Consolidation of Peace, despite the fact that the Court’s final judgment was that the duty to investigate was a non-derogable obligation and amnesties for serious human rights violations were incompatible with the American Convention. 
2. Violence in the context of development,  investment, and extractive projects
99. The Commission has witnessed a noteworthy growth in the reception of information, individual petitions, and precautionary measures regarding human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples in the  context of development, investment, and extractive projects.217 According to the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, “[t]he commodification of land that is inherent in such practices is an assault on indigenous cultures and the importance placed on land.” 218 Forced displacement and migration; ecological degradation or contamination and their impacts on the right to health and culture; disintegration of the networks and social fabric; increased responsibilities; sexual violence and the trafficking of indigenous women and girls; as well as land disputes are some of the most common consequences of the implementation of these projects. 219 It is important to emphasize that indigenous women are disproportionately and especially affected by multiple forms of discrimination and violence in these situations. 220 As a result, the consequences of the implementation of these projects can be experienced by indigenous women as violations of their physical, sexual, spiritual, and cultural integrity.221

100. In this regard, the IACHR has been informed that the implementation of development projects can create and increase indigenous women’s “vulnerability to abuse and violence, such as sexual violence, exploitation and trafficking.”222 Indeed, many of these development projects trigger environmental degradation of their lands and territories as well as forced displacements of indigenous peoples. Indigenous communities, thus deprived of their lands and traditional ways of life and of subsistence, are then forced into poverty. This situation of poverty and vulnerability combined with the arrival of workers and laborers in these remote areas, and in addition to prejudice and discrimination, has led to forced prostitution and trafficking of indigenous women and girls, and all the consequences these practices have on their physical and psychological health, and on their culture. 

101. During its working visit to Suriname in 2013, as well as during the hearing on the Human Rights Situation of the Apetina Indigenous Community in Suriname, the Commission was informed of the impacts of gold mining on the livelihood and sustainability of indigenous and tribal communities. Other problems reported were the use of mercury by mining companies and inadequate dumping procedures affecting the quality of the water of these communities and the health of the community members; incidents of forced displacement due to gold mining activities; child labor; and sexual violence perpetrated against women in mining areas. 223 In particular, indigenous women in Suriname have informed the Commission of the presence of high levels of mercury in the water bioaccumulating in the fish that the communities rely on for subsistence, causing health problems in pregnant women and children, who suffer from severe diarrhea and tremors.224

102. The Commission has found that “these projects bring with them an increase in involuntary prostitution of indigenous girls, forced/unwanted pregnancies, STDs, and sexual violence.”225 In the case of Brazil, the IACHR has received information regarding the drastic social and cultural 
consequences of mining, and how these activities create conditions favorable for the emergence of prostitution, drug consumption, and domestic and sexual violence.226 During a meeting of experts, indigenous women leaders informed the Commission of cases in which miners from these development projects have kidnapped and raped indigenous girls, who often end up residing in forced prostitution camps or forced into child pornography because of their rejection by their communities due to the stigma associated with such violence.227 As a result of the lack of adequate jobs in the hinterland regions of Guyana, the serious impacts of mining on indigenous life-style, and the fact that their primary occupations do not provide sufficiently to cover their needs and those of their children, the Commission was also informed that indigenous women –who bear the socially defined role of care-givers, wives, mothers and grandmothers– were increasingly pushed to resort to prostitution as a means of supporting their families.228

103. In particular, the Commission notes the troubling information it has received concerning acts of sexual violence perpetrated against indigenous women in the context of development mega-projects implemented in Guatemala.229 According to information received during its August 2013 country visit, the implementation of the Inter-Oceanic Canal [Canal Seco Interoceánico] and the highway Franja Trasversal del Norte have led to cases of sexual violence perpetrated by the workers of the companies, which were denounced but remain in impunity.230 The Commission further learned of two more cases in which 12 indigenous women from the San Juan Sacatepéquez Community and 11 indigenous women from the Maya Q’eqchi’ Community of Lote 8, Chacpayla reported acts of sexual violence perpetrated by men belonging to the police, the army and security guards of the companies in the context of development mega-projects; cases which, at the date of approval of the present report, remained in impunity.231

104. The Commission also underscores that indigenous women can be displaced from their territories as a result of development, investment, and extractive projects. The displacement of indigenous women from their ancestral land separates them from the place on which the continuation of their way of life and survival depends, as well as the expression of their cultural and spiritual life.232 The IACHR has established that access to, use and possession of their ancestral land is critical for the exercise of indigenous peoples’ individual and collective human rights.233 Indigenous women leaders present at a meeting of experts described to the Commission how, as part of their special relationship with the land, women are connected to the energy in addition to the objects in nature, illustrating how displacement from their ancestral lands severs the connection between indigenous women and the spiritual energy of their territories.234

105. The presence of third parties in the lands and territories of indigenous peoples often causes indigenous women to lose their traditional livelihood, slowly degrading their social structure and traditional way of life.235 In cases where indigenous men become employed by the companies that implement large-scale projects in their territories, women’s traditional activities have to change in order to compensate for the work previously done by men.236 In other situations, the access to natural resources by indigenous women is limited and they have to find different ways to provide for their families or are forced to migrate to cities in search of employment. Indigenous women have also informed the IACHR of other effects, including increased work and   family responsibilities due to the absence of their husbands and the weakening of their communal and family life, among others.237 Indigenous women also reported an increase in family and sexual violence.238

106. Indigenous women are also at an increased risk for health problems associated with environmental contamination when development projects are implemented in their territories.239 The Commission observes that the development projects can contaminate the water supply and affect women’s health, causing such consequences as “high levels of toxins in breast milk, in the blood of the umbilical cord, and in blood serum and fatty tissue, causing infertility, miscarriages, premature births, early menstruation and menopause, cancers of the reproductive system, decreased lactation and the inability to produce healthy children.” 240 For example, the IACHR was informed that in Ecuador’s oil fields “cancer constitutes 32 percent of the deaths, three times more than the national average, affecting mainly women.” 241 Furthermore, there has been an increase in “spontaneous abortions, cancers as well as skin, respiratory system and gastro-intestinal problems, inter alia, among indigenous women due to the storage of toxic waste related to development projects on indigenous lands.242 

107. Women are also affected in their child-rearing roles by high rates of infant mortality, birth defects and juvenile illnesses due to water contamination and accidents related to petroleum.243 The United Nations has reported how pesticides and chemical fertilizers used by cultivation projects have destroyed the land and eco-system to such an extent that it leaves no choice for indigenous communities but to relocate. 244 The Commission has reiterated its concern over indigenous peoples’ rights to health and to a healthy environment in the context of mining exploitation, and has stated that “[t]he impacts of the presence of heavy metals in the bodies of human beings may be irreparable […] For this reason, the IACHR believes that it is necessary for States to take measures that will allow for the repair of territories degraded and contaminated by the realization of extractive activities, which should include the implementation of special programs that include as one of its core actions attention to the health of indigenous peoples.”245

108. Lastly, the Inter-American Commission notes that the destruction of ancestral lands, natural resources, and sacred sites which can result from the implementation of development projects can prevent indigenous women, as spiritual leaders of their communities, from performing certain rituals and ceremonies, which serve to empower them as keepers of their traditions within their communities.246 This violation of their right to culture and survival, affects them at the spiritual, individual, and collective levels. The Commission also underscores that individual acts of sexual violence and the health-related illnesses suffered by indigenous women threaten their physical integrity, the continuation of their culture and survival, and constitute a form of spiritual violence, harming them individually and collectively.247

3. Violence related to the militarization of indigenous lands 



109. The militarization of indigenous territories –which can result from armed conflicts, the implementation of development mega-projects, as well as government security policies – often places members of indigenous communities at grave risk of violence that implicates their rights to life, personal integrity, and their physical and cultural survival.248 Armed groups, including members of organized crime, and State actors, sometimes acting through the aforementioned members of organized crime, mobilize in order to gain control over the natural resources on indigenous lands, exposing indigenous women to the risk of militarized violence.249 In this context, the IACHR has received information that indigenous women have faced sexual violence, trafficking and the types of violence unique to militarization, like landmines, and forced recruitment.

110. Indigenous leaders have reported on the link between development megaprojects and the militarization of indigenous lands in the case of Nicaragua and the construction of the Trans-Oceanic Canal.250 In a hearing on the human rights implications of this project, the Commission received information indicating that the police and the army have conducted excursions into indigenous lands, starting at the beginning of the project.251 Indigenous leaders also reported to the Commission that the zones around the canal, over 50% of which affect the Rama and Criol indigenous peoples and afro-descendant peoples, have become militarized, with even primary schools being occupied as barracks.252 Given the household responsibilities  of indigenous women and their roles as spiritual leaders in charge of the continuation of indigenous culture, it is alleged that the militarization of their lands, the environmental damage, as well as the forced displacement and consequent danger of the extinction of the Rama language, will have a disproportionate impact on the indigenous women.253

111. At a regional level, the Commission has also received information indicating that the militarization of indigenous lands in the Americas exposes indigenous women to sexual violence, including rape by the military forces, forced prostitution, and sexual slavery.254 The Commission highlights two cases decided by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights pertaining to the sexual torture of indigenous women in the context of militarization. In the cases of Valentina Rosendo Cantú and Inés Fernández Ortega, regarding two indigenous women who were raped by members of the Mexican military as discussed earlier, the Court specifically took into consideration the military presence in the area surrounding the victim’s home and community in its analysis of the violations in the case.255 

112. The Commission has also received information regarding the conflicts taking place in Colombia between third party individuals, armed groups and economic actors that want to lay claim to their traditional indigenous territories, because of their military and economic value, as well as the natural resources they hold.256 The territories are also of military and economic strategic importance, as corridors for troop transport and safe haven, for weapons trafficking, and for the growing, processing, and trafficking of drugs. 257 Indigenous women leaders have informed the Commission that the struggle for control of land has, over the course of the conflict, provoked an increased presence of paramilitaries and organized crime, and an increase in cases of forced prostitution.258 Specifically, the Commission notes its concern over the trafficking and sale of Miskito
 children through the Rio Coco and Rio Abajo in Nicaragua.259 Organizations of women, such as the Wanky Tangny, have publically denounced the existence of trafficking networks along the border between Nicaragua and Honduras.260

4. Domestic Violence 



113. Indigenous women have informed the Commission through various mechanisms of the problem of the problem of domestic violence. However, most of these incidents are not reported or documented in the Americas. In this regard, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples has indicated the following: “[i]nformation on domestic violence is limited due to underreporting and lack of investment in data collection. Nonetheless, available data suggests that indigenous women are significantly more likely to be victims of domestic violence than nonindigenous women.”261 It also should be noted that the consequences of domestic violence may be felt more acutely by indigenous women, due to lack of access to support services and justice, and to their specific cultural and economic circumstances.262

114. According to information received from indigenous groups, international and civil society organizations, colonization and the strategy of nonindigenous actors to disrupt the social cohesion of indigenous communities have introduced and perpetuated the problem of interpersonal, genderbased violence against indigenous women in their communities.263 The Commission, in addressing the situation of violence against indigenous women in Canada, has already explained that:
The situation of indigenous women in Canada, in turn, exists within a historical context that includes the colonization process and its impacts in the present day. “[T]hrough policies imposed without their consent, indigenous peoples in Canada ‘have had to deal with dispossession of their traditional
 territories, disassociation with their traditional roles and responsibilities, disassociation with participation in political and social decisions in their communities, [and] disassociation of their culture and tradition.” One of the many negative impacts of these policies has been on the relationship between men and women in indigenous communities.264

115. Given that indigenous women are considered spiritual leaders and essential for the survival of indigenous communities, indigenous groups emphasize that “many indigenous philosophical, spiritual, cultural, and economic norms historically mediated against gender violence, which was viewed within the tradition as essentially deviant behavior.”265 In fact, the IACHR has indicated that, in some indigenous communities, patriarchy and male dominance were imposed on matriarchal cultures, targeting the power of indigenous women as decision makers, leaders, and equal members of their community […].266 In these cases, the reversal of this traditional view of gender violence has been traced back to colonization and its violations of indigenous peoples’ collective rights. 267 The IACHR understands that domestic violence can also constitute spiritual violence, because it may affect both the women individually, and also entail harm to the collective identity of the communities to which they belong.268

116. The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has also observed that “cultures of violence, imposed by systemic racism and the infliction of direct, symbolic and structural violence against indigenous peoples through
colonization, are reproduced in countless ways, leading to the implosion and severe dysfunction of many indigenous communities and cultures and subsequent increased rates of violence against women and girls.” 269 Similarly, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people has noted that many of the potential root causes for domestic violence against indigenous women “are linked to human rights issues specific to indigenous peoples and historical violations of their rights, including a violent family environment; abusive State policies at a young age; financial problems and poverty; unemployment; lack of education; poor physical and mental health; racism-induced stress; denial of rights to self-determination, land and culture, among others, leading to loss of identity and self-esteem; and a breakdown of community kinship systems and Aboriginal law.”270
117. The Commission has also received information on the prevalence of domestic violence suffered by indigenous women in countries including Guatemala, Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Canada and the United States of America. According to information received by the Public Office for the Defense of Indigenous Women’s rights in Guatemala [“Defensoría de la Mujer Indígena,” or “DEMI”], it is estimated that one third of indigenous women who live with a man suffer from domestic violence, with young women facing a higher rate of violence.271 In the case of Brazil, for example, data from the Office of the Public Defender of the State of Mato Grosso do Sul indicated that reported cases of domestic violence against indigenous women in the region had increased almost 600% between 2010 and 2015, which brought the State to translate the Maia da Penha Law into two indigenous languages, Guarani and Terena272. With respect to Mexico, the civil society organization Equis has indicated that 47% of indigenous women over the age of 15 had suffered some form of violence in their relationships.273 Regarding Bolivia, a twofold higher risk of partner violence has been identified for women who speak a language other than Spanish at
home.274 In Ecuador, women who identify themselves as indigenous report higher levels of partner violence that those who identify themselves as mestizo or white.275 Indigenous women in Canada “are nearly three times as likely to experience violence as non-aboriginal women,” regardless of whether the violence occurs between strangers, acquaintances, or within a spousal relationship.276 With regards to the United States, the Commission has received information indicating that “American Indians and Alaska Natives [women] are 2.5 times as likely to experience violent crimes – and at least 2 times more likely to experience rape or sexual assault crimes – compared to all other races,”277 and that “39 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be subjected to violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.”278 The information received indicates that the perpetrators of the different types of violence are for the most part non-Native.279 For example, regarding rape or sexual assault, an average of 67 percent of victims described the offender as non-Native; regarding physical assault, 63 percent of offenders were identified as non-Native.280
5. Violence in the exercise of their  economic, social and cultural rights

118. Indigenous women suffer from multiple forms of violence in the exercise of their economic, social and cultural rights. The violation of these rights is inextricably linked to the structural violence that they face, as well as the   
intersectional forms of discrimination that have historically affected them. The IACHR has established that many indigenous women live in a situation of poverty as a result of their exclusion from the social and economic benefits available in their countries.281 The many forms of discrimination to which they are subjected – ethnic, racial, socio-economic, and gender-based – raise significant barriers for them to access basic health and education services, food, decent and quality employment, and full participation in public and political life in their countries, thus curtailing their access to their fundamental human rights.282

119. In different regions of the world, there have been “severe historical violations of indigenous women’s rights in relation to sexual and reproductive rights in the context of denial of their right to selfdetermination and cultural autonomy,” which include forced sterilization, the imposition of contraceptive measures absent consent or information, and attempts to coerce indigenous women into having children with nonindigenous men.283 The Commission has received information that, while attempting to access healthcare, indigenous women in numerous Latin American countries have been forcibly sterilized or forced to use contraceptives.284 The IACHR addressed the problem of forced sterilization of an indigenous woman in the case of María Mamérita Mestanza Chávez, in which the State of Peru recognized that the victim, an indigenous woman, was forced to undergo a surgical sterilization that ultimately led to her death.285 In this case, the State and the petitioners reached a friendly settlement agreement.

120. During the hearing on Maternal Health and Reports of Obstetric Violence in Mexico, held during the 150th Period of Sessions, the IACHR was informed that obstetric violence disproportionately affects indigenous women and
 women in a situation of poverty.286 The Commission has also been informed of indigenous women in Mexico being denied medical attention when they arrive at hospitals while pregnant, incidents of medical malpractice, and violations of their right to access to information, among others.287 The IACHR received information, in response to the questionnaire, regarding three indigenous women who gave birth on lawns outside of hospitals in Oaxaca, Mexico, after being rejected by hospital staff.288

121. During its recent working visit to Guyana, the Commission received information from several organizations with regards to the serious structural challenges indigenous peoples continue to face, including failure to respect their land rights, the acute poverty that affects people living in rural and remote areas, the failure to integrate an intercultural perspective in the country’s education curriculum and to include indigenous languages, the problems of violence and trafficking of persons that affect indigenous women, and discriminatory social stereotypes that hinder social participation and access to decent work and adequate health care services for indigenous peoples.289

6. Violence against indigenous women human rights defenders and defenders of indigenous women’s rights

122. The Commission also considers it important to take into account the violence and intimidation faced by the human rights defenders who work to advance the human rights of indigenous women, and address their situation of poverty and marginalization. The Commission has underscored that “murders, extrajudicial executions, and forced disappearances committed against human rights defenders are the most serious obstacles to the exercise of promoting and protecting human rights.”290 Across the region,
the Commission has observed a pattern of assaults, threats, and harassment against the personal integrity of human rights defenders.291 In this regard, the IACHR has received troubling information concerning the treatment of human rights defenders in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, the United States and Venezuela, among other countries.292

123. In particular, the human rights organizations working on the defense of indigenous and women’s rights have frequently been targets of attacks on their life.293 On September 18, 2013, after a working visit to Guatemala, former IACHR Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Dinah Shelton expressed her concern over reports of murder, rape, threats, and acts of harassment directed against indigenous authorities and leaders and human rights defenders in the country.294 In 2014, the Commission reported the murders of Mayan and Asháninka leaders and human rights defenders in Guatemala and Peru.295 The IACHR further takes note of the concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in which CERD expressed its concern over the attacks and murders perpetrated against indigenous defenders in Guatemala,296 as well as the serious physical assaults perpetrated against indigenous defenders in Honduras.297 A group of indigenous women experts described to the Commission how indigenous women human rights defenders were being specifically targeted for such attacks, particularly in
the context of armed conflicts.298 In a hearing before the Commission, civil society organizations denounced a differentiated use of violence against indigenous women leaders and defenders, and an increased use of targeted gendered and sexual violence as a strategy to pressure them away from their lands and towards cities, making way for extractive activities.299

124. Women human rights defenders face additional forms of discrimination.300 The IACHR has received information regarding the particularly grave risk to women human rights defenders in the context of armed conflicts, often targeted for harassment, threats and attacks in order for the armed groups to exercise “social control” over territories.301 Moreover, indigenous women human rights defenders are exposed to additional disrespect and harassment by State authorities and armed actors when they work to promote and defend women’s rights, exacerbating the dual discrimination they already face based on their gender and race. 302 Specifically, the Commission has been informed that women human rights defenders face criminalization and prosecution when promoting and defending women’s sexual and reproductive rights, in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, for example.303 In these cases, they are “accused of undermining moral values or social institutions like the family.”304 In Colombia, women human rights defenders who fought for land restitution on behalf of displaced persons and who were involved in the peace process - such as is the case of some indigenous leaders - have been specific targets of threats and violence.305 The Commission and the Court, in the matter of Ana Teresa Yarce et al v. Colombia, both concluded that there is a context of heightened risk faced by women human rights defenders in Colombia.306 In this regard, it is important to note the important advances supported by the State of Colombia in the implementation of a specialized gender protocol to enhance the protection of women’s rights defenders, indigenous women leaders, and journalists in the context of its national protection mechanism. Despite these efforts, the situation remains of concern to the Commission.307

125. The Commission was also informed in the context of a hearing of the violence with which Dakota State county authorities in the United States repressed women human rights defenders who were protesting peacefully against the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, and how the most severe injuries on the frontline had been sustained by women.308 In this sense, the Commission received allegations that a pregnant woman was injured by a rubber bullet, a young girl had lost her eye after being hit, and a young women nearly lost the use of her arm after a device exploded.309

126. The Commission has found that repeated attacks and threats against human rights defenders, along with the criminalization of their efforts, can have a significant chilling effect on their work.310 Additionally, the Commission has received information about the exclusion of indigenous women human rights defenders from leadership roles in Nicaragua with the explanation that they supposedly lack experience in negotiating with the non-indigenous third-party actors.311 The Commission was informed during both of its follow-up hearings on the situation of murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada about a similar situation where none of the indigenous women’s associations were included by the government of Canada to participate in the design of the terms of reference and the implementation of the National Inquiry into the situation of Murdered and Missing Aboriginal   Women, consulting only male-led indigenous organizations.312 As such, the constant attacks  whether internal to their communities or external  aimed at undermining the efforts of human rights defenders of indigenous women’s rights, increases the gravity of the human rights situation of indigenous women, silencing the persons who defend and promote their rights. The combination of this pattern of violence against human rights defenders and the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination faced by indigenous women create conditions that facilitate and perpetuate violence against indigenous women.

7. Violence in urban settings and during  displacement and migratory processes

127. Across the Americas, an increasing number of indigenous peoples are compelled by economic need, armed conflict, and the denial of land rights, to migrate from their home communities in rural areas to urban centres.313 They relocate in urban areas to study, find work, and seek out a better life for themselves and their families, but also “to flee conditions of family and social persecution that attempt against their life and their integrity.”314

128. This migration away from their usual safety nets, cultural practices, and their ancestral lands and resources, towards large cities, the labor market and vastly different values and customs make for a difficult transition into the urban setting. This transition is of greater difficulty and is a source of greater vulnerability for indigenous women and girls, who are faced with manifold sources of discrimination, who tend to find themselves in precarious socio-economic situations and have dependents to take care of. As was emphasized by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples in her report on the situation of indigenous women, “Indigenous women and girls who leave their communities are highly vulnerable to trafficking, which can lead to multiple violations of their human rights, including severe economic and sexual exploitation and sexual violence.”315 A    report from the Commissioner in charge of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry of British Columbia, Canada affirmed that “there is no question that the transition from the North to an urban center makes young women particularly vulnerable” and, without support during this transition period, indigenous women face an increased vulnerability to homelessness, drug addiction, extreme poverty, and violence. 316

129. For his part, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment highlighted, in a report of January 2016, that the abuse that women suffered during migration attained such levels that they could amount to torture and ill-treatment: “[m]igrants […] worldwide face grave human rights violations during the migration process. Physical violence, threats and abductions by smugglers, traffickers and organized criminal groups are common. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, exploitation and slavery along migration routes. Such abuses can amount to torture and ill-treatment [...].”317

130. In addition, migration or displacement towards cities in itself is perilous for indigenous women. In its report on Access to justice for women victim of sexual violence in Mesoamerica, the IACHR indicated that: “Migrant women suffer different forms of sexual violence such as forced prostitution, trafficking of persons for the purposes of sexual or labor exploitation; […] rape and sexual abuses during transit or permanence in the destination country, […] physical, sexual and psychological violence exercise in the home, and kidnappings.”318 The obstacles that migrant women encounter in attempts to access the justice system are increased by their immigration status when they are fleeing the country where they lived.


https://www.iwgia.org/images/documents/popular-publications/indigenous-women-americas.pdf
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Friday, December 7, 2018

Can you help us find Giovanna? #WeMissGiovanna #NosFaltaGiovanna



From December 4, 2010 the trail of Giovanna Paulina Pérez Constante disappeared for her parents and loved ones. She was 19 years old. It has been eight years of pain which we want to end.

The search has been tireless on the part of the family without obtaining the desired answer. Everyone in Ambato (Ecuador) knows his face from the  posters placed all around the city and in  social network spaces that included the reward of the Ecuadorian Government of 200,000 dollars for calls contributing to find Giovanna (information tlph l800 335 486 )

At this moment we are calling for a final effort, a deafening scream that achieves in Ecuador all political instances of power so that, in an exercise of responsibility,  heaven, earth, sun and sea will be moved to find Giovanna.

We know that the societies that do not attend, protect, care for and value their women are more prone to the occurrence of feminicide and disappearances and we want each member of the citizenship, as a conscious and mature society, to take responsibility for our share of guilt in these behaviors that build unhappiness and pain and get, in this case, that justice reaches the house of Giovanna's family.


Negligence, delays, inattention and failures in the research process have occurred, hiding clues to reach Giovanna and this must stop.


This is a wonderful opportunity for the Universities in which both Giovanna and Andres Lopez Lizano, (the young man he was with on the day of his disappearance) were, become aware of the inequality, abuse and harassment  against women occur and work seriously to correct them. All public agencies must join in that endeavor, as recommended to Ecuador by the United Nations.

From here we call everyone on December 7 in the Plaza Ceballos de Ambato, Tungurahua, in front of the Prosecutor's Office, at 10 o'clock in the morning to push the Justice System that seems to be asleep, partial and has acted in an irresponsible and inhuman way.

If you are not in Ambato, we ask you to help and support Giovanna's family, especially her mother Yane Constante, following her in her struggle and spreading the image of Giovanna and her companion as many spaces as possible in order to obtain clues. 


Any information call: 00593998299508
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Manifestations of Violence against Indigenous Women 5/20


Chapter 4-B

87. The Commission has received information in public hearings, expert meetings, country visits and questionnaires, among other methods, confirming that violence against indigenous women is perpetrated by State and non-state actors, and by indigenous and non-indigenous individuals in various contexts. Violence is often perpetrated against indigenous women during armed conflicts; the implementation of development, investment, and extractive projects; the militarization of their territories; situations of deprivation of liberty; within the family or domestic sphere; and in connection with their involvement in the defense of their human rights. In this section, the report will describe some of the different contexts in which violence is perpetrated against indigenous women, reflecting on the perpetrators, victims, and forms of violence in each context. 

1. Violence in the context of armed conflict 
88. The IACHR reiterates that armed conflicts increase the vulnerability of marginalized people and groups to human rights violations, creating scenarios for indigenous women to be disproportionately targeted by State and non-state armed actors. The Commission has noted that, during an armed conflict, “all circumstances that have historically exposed women to discrimination and to receive an inferior treatment” are exacerbated, and “exploited and manipulated by the actors of the armed conflict in their struggle to control territory and economic resources.”186 

89. Numerous types of violence have been used against indigenous women in the context of the armed conflicts that have taken place in the Americas, including acts of sexual violence, sexual slavery, murders, and disappearances. These acts of violence not only constitute violations of the rights to life and personal integrity of indigenous women, but also jeopardize their physical and cultural survival.187 Examples from Guatemala, Colombia, Peru and El Salvador will be discussed in this section to exemplify the multiple forms of discrimination and violence suffered by indigenous women during armed conflicts. 

90. The Commission notes that indigenous Mayan women were “specifically targeted by members of the military during the armed conflict in Guatemala,” 188 and constituted “approximately a quarter of the direct victims of human rights violations and acts of violence.”189 The Commission for Historical Clarification stated that the indigenous Mayan peoples were targeted for “extermination en masse,” including their women, children and elderly.190 The tactics used were of the most egregious cruelty and of the “most outrageous brutality,” 191 atrocities ranging from rape, torture, amputations, eviscerations, massacres, scorched earth operations, to the opening of the wombs of pregnant women. 192 It was observed that “the loathing and debasement of indigenous women in military parlance during the armed confrontation reached such extremes that women came to be regarded as meat.”193 

91. The majority of the rape victims during the armed conflict in Guatemala were indigenous Mayan women.194 These acts of violence were perpetrated in the context of a broader campaign to destroy the culture and identity of the Mayan people, involving the destruction of sacred places, cultural symbols and ceremonial centers, repression of indigenous language, culture and dress, and the brutal killing of elders, with the aim of disrupting their social order and way of life.195 The Commission on Truth and Reconciliation of Guatemala concluded that these acts – committed with the intent to destroy the Mayan people of Guatemala in whole or in part – constituted a crime of genocide.196 It should also be noted that quite recently, in the Sepur Zarco case, national courts in Guatemala have found the sexual slavery of indigenous women during the conflict to constitute a crime against humanity.197  

92. As indicated earlier, the Inter-American Court has addressed the massacre of indigenous Mayan peoples in the cases of Plan de Sánchez Massacre, Massacre of Río Negro and “Las Dos Erres” Massacre, where the State of Guatemala was held internationally responsible for the grave human rights violations committed by members of the armed forces against Mayan communities.198 The specific effects suffered by the indigenous women because of these human rights violations were underscored by the Court when determining the responsibility of the State and granting reparations to the victims and their families. 199 As an emblematic case of violence perpetrated against indigenous women in the armed conflict, the Commission also recalls the decision of the Inter-American Court in the case of Tiu Tojín to hold the State of Guatemala internationally responsible for the forced disappearance of María Tiu Tojín and her daughter, found to be perpetrated by members of the military.200 

93. In relation to the situation in Colombia, the Commission has observed that indigenous women and their leaders are often victims of violence and discrimination in the armed conflict.201 The troubling information presented in the Commission’s 2014 report on Colombia continues a trend in the country documented in the Commission's previous reports on Colombia in 2006 and 2009, as can be seen in the most recent press releases of the Commission on Colombia.202 Both the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and the IACHR have documented that these violent acts against indigenous women have been perpetrated by “agents of the State, members of post-demobilization paramilitary groups, and members of the FARC-EP and the National Liberation Army.”203 Indigenous women from Colombia have expressed to the Commission in the past: “We don’t want any more widowed women, more orphans, we want to return to our lands.”204 

94. The Commission has found that in Colombia, indigenous women are subjected to sexual enslavement, forced pregnancy, gang-rapes, sexual mutilation, and killings by various actors of the armed conflict.205 Rape and sexual violence against indigenous women are used as weapons of war by armed actors206 to both forcibly displace communities or to erode the communities’ capacity for resistance.207 The Commission recognizes that indigenous women are most exposed to these acts of sexual violence because of the multiple forms of discrimination they face and the vulnerable nature of their territories.208 Indigenous women and their leaders often are the targets of murder and disappearances during armed conflicts. The Commission notes how armed actors use selective murders and disappearances as a war tactic in order to disrupt the cohesion of the community by depriving it of its leaders and to instill fear in the indigenous communities for taking up the causes of the murdered leaders or for opposing any kind of resistance.209 
95. The consequences of the violence committed in the context of armed conflict places indigenous communities at grave risk. Given the strategic aim of intimidation and disruption of indigenous communities and the unique role of indigenous women within their communities, the Commission has observed that the sexual violence, murders, and forced disappearances in the armed conflict in Colombia have jeopardized the “physical and cultural existence of indigenous peoples.”210 The Commission considers that the fact that women are the targets of the attacks against these communities further “aggravates the cultural, spiritual and physical equilibrium already in jeopardy” due to the unique role of indigenous women.211 

96. The Commission has welcomed the signing of peace accords in Colombia as an indispensable step towards peace, which is a necessary precondition for the full respect of human rights. In this context, the Commission has taken note of positive measures adopted to include the perspectives of women in these processes, but also observes that indigenous women face enormous barriers in having their voices heard. The Commission also notes that, despite the positive measures implemented by the State of Colombia to enforce specialized protocols for the protection of women human rights defenders, indigenous women who organize to defend their rights continue to be the target of high levels of violence and harassment in the country.212 They are crucial actors for the peace process and its follow-up, and it is crucial that they be included and that their voices are heard. 

97. The State of Peru also suffered an internal armed conflict between the Peruvian government and illegal armed groups—the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement—which has had dire consequences on women and indigenous women in particular. The Commission and the Court have processed cases related to the widespread use of sexual violence by Peruvian state agents as a weapon of war and the situation of impunity that existed during the armed conflict in Peru.213 It is worth noting that the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission established that the indigenous population amounted to 75% of the victims during the conflict in Peru.214 The Commission also granted a hearing on the National Reparations Plan in Peru, in which it received information on, among other topics, the situation of indigenous women in Peru who had been and continued to be exposed to sexual violence, and whose marginalization persisted over time because of the lack of a gender perspective in the reparations program. The requesting organizations argued that the reparations program excluded women’s concerns, focused exclusively on financial reparations, and in many ways re-victimized women.215 

98. In the decision Massacres of El Mozote and Nearby Places v. El Salvador, the Court found that the State had conducted military operations between December 11 and 13, 1981 in various communities of the northern part of the department of Morazán, leading to massacres, the used of rape as a means of torture, and the setting to fire of homes, possessions and animals; all human rights violations leading to internal displacements.216 The Court found that these acts of sexual violence jeopardized the rights to life, personal integrity, and privacy of the women affected. An investigation was opened into these events, yet it was halted based on the Law of General Amnesty for the Consolidation of Peace, despite the fact that the Court’s final judgment was that the duty to investigate was a non-derogable obligation and amnesties for serious human rights violations were incompatible with the American Convention.  

2. Violence in the context of development,  investment, and extractive projects 

99. The Commission has witnessed a noteworthy growth in the reception of information, individual petitions, and precautionary measures regarding human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples in the context of development, investment, and extractive projects.217 According to the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, “[t]he commodification of land that is inherent in such practices is an assault on indigenous cultures and the importance placed on land.” 218 Forced displacement and migration; ecological degradation or contamination and their impacts on the right to health and culture; disintegration of the networks and social fabric; increased responsibilities; sexual violence and the trafficking of indigenous women and girls; as well as land disputes are some of the most common consequences of the implementation of these projects. 219 It is important to emphasize that indigenous women are disproportionately and especially affected by multiple forms of discrimination and violence in these situations. 220 As a result, the consequences of the implementation of these projects can be experienced by indigenous women as violations of their physical, sexual, spiritual, and cultural integrity.221 

100. In this regard, the IACHR has been informed that the implementation of development projects can create and increase indigenous women’s “vulnerability to abuse and violence, such as sexual violence, exploitation and trafficking.”222 Indeed, many of these development projects trigger environmental degradation of their lands and territories as well as forced displacements of indigenous peoples. Indigenous communities, thus deprived of their lands and traditional ways of life and of subsistence, are then forced into poverty. This situation of poverty and vulnerability combined with the arrival of workers and laborers in these remote areas, and in addition to prejudice and discrimination, has led to forced prostitution and trafficking of indigenous women and girls, and all the consequences these practices have on their physical and psychological health, and on their culture. 

101. During its working visit to Suriname in 2013, as well as during the hearing on the Human Rights Situation of the Apetina Indigenous Community in Suriname, the Commission was informed of the impacts of gold mining on the livelihood and sustainability of indigenous and tribal communities. Other problems reported were the use of mercury by mining companies and inadequate dumping procedures affecting the quality of the water of these communities and the health of the community members; incidents of forced displacement due to gold mining activities; child labor; and sexual violence perpetrated against women in mining areas. 223 In particular, indigenous women in Suriname have informed the Commission of the presence of high levels of mercury in the water bioaccumulating in the fish that the communities rely on for subsistence, causing health problems in pregnant women and children, who suffer from severe diarrhea and tremors.224 

102. The Commission has found that “these projects bring with them an increase in involuntary prostitution of indigenous girls, forced/unwanted pregnancies, STDs, and sexual violence.”225 In the case of Brazil, the IACHR has received information regarding the drastic social and cultural consequences of mining, and how these activities create conditions favorable for the emergence of prostitution, drug consumption, and domestic and sexual violence.226 During a meeting of experts, indigenous women leaders informed the Commission of cases in which miners from these development projects have kidnapped and raped indigenous girls, who often end up residing in forced prostitution camps or forced into child pornography because of their rejection by their communities due to the stigma associated with such violence.227 As a result of the lack of adequate jobs in the hinterland regions of Guyana, the serious impacts of mining on indigenous life-style, and the fact that their primary occupations do not provide sufficiently to cover their needs and those of their children, the Commission was also informed that indigenous women –who bear the socially defined role of care-givers, wives, mothers and grandmothers– were increasingly pushed to resort to prostitution as a means of supporting their families.228 

103. In particular, the Commission notes the troubling information it has received concerning acts of sexual violence perpetrated against indigenous women in the context of development mega-projects implemented in Guatemala.229 According to information received during its August 2013 country visit, the implementation of the Inter-Oceanic Canal [Canal Seco Interoceánico] and the highway Franja Trasversal del Norte have led to cases of sexual violence perpetrated by the workers of the companies, which were denounced but remain in impunity.230 The Commission further learned of two more cases in which 12 indigenous women from the San Juan Sacatepéquez Community and 11 indigenous women from the Maya Q’eqchi’ Community of Lote 8, Chacpayla reported acts of sexual violence perpetrated by men belonging to the police, the army and security guards of the companies in the context of development mega-projects; cases which, at the date of approval of the present report, remained in impunity.231 

104. The Commission also underscores that indigenous women can be displaced from their territories as a result of development, investment, and extractive projects. The displacement of indigenous women from their ancestral land separates them from the place on which the continuation of their way of life and survival depends, as well as the expression of their cultural and spiritual life.232 The IACHR has established that access to, use and possession of their ancestral land is critical for the exercise of indigenous peoples’ individual and collective human rights.233 Indigenous women leaders present at a meeting of experts described to the Commission how, as part of their special relationship with the land, women are connected to the energy in addition to the objects in nature, illustrating how displacement from their ancestral lands severs the connection between indigenous women and the spiritual energy of their territories.234 

105. The presence of third parties in the lands and territories of indigenous peoples often causes indigenous women to lose their traditional livelihood, slowly degrading their social structure and traditional way of life.235 In cases where indigenous men become employed by the companies that implement large-scale projects in their territories, women’s traditional activities have to change in order to compensate for the work previously done by men.236 In other situations, the access to natural resources by indigenous women is limited and they have to find different ways to provide for their families or are forced to migrate to cities in search of employment. Indigenous women have also informed the IACHR of other effects, including increased work and   family responsibilities due to the absence of their husbands and the weakening of their communal and family life, among others.237 Indigenous women also reported an increase in family and sexual violence.238 

106. Indigenous women are also at an increased risk for health problems associated with environmental contamination when development projects are implemented in their territories.239 The Commission observes that the development projects can contaminate the water supply and affect women’s health, causing such consequences as “high levels of toxins in breast milk, in the blood of the umbilical cord, and in blood serum and fatty tissue, causing infertility, miscarriages, premature births, early menstruation and menopause, cancers of the reproductive system, decreased lactation and the inability to produce healthy children.” 240 For example, the IACHR was informed that in Ecuador’s oil fields “cancer constitutes 32 percent of the deaths, three times more than the national average, affecting mainly women.” 241 Furthermore, there has been an increase in “spontaneous abortions, cancers as well as skin, respiratory system and gastro-intestinal problems, inter alia, among indigenous women due to the storage of toxic waste related to development projects on indigenous lands.242 

107. Women are also affected in their child-rearing roles by high rates of infant mortality, birth defects and juvenile illnesses due to water contamination and accidents related to petroleum.243 The United Nations has reported how pesticides and chemical fertilizers used by cultivation projects have destroyed the land and eco-system to such an extent that it leaves no choice for indigenous communities but to relocate. 244 The Commission has reiterated its concern over indigenous peoples’ rights to health and to a healthy environment in the context of mining exploitation, and has stated that “[t]he impacts of the presence of heavy metals in the bodies of human beings may be irreparable […] For this reason, the IACHR believes that it is necessary for States to take measures that will allow for the repair of territories degraded and contaminated by the realization of extractive activities, which should include the implementation of special programs that include as one of its core actions attention to the health of indigenous peoples.”245 

108. Lastly, the Inter-American Commission notes that the destruction of ancestral lands, natural resources, and sacred sites which can result from the implementation of development projects can prevent indigenous women, as spiritual leaders of their communities, from performing certain rituals and ceremonies, which serve to empower them as keepers of their traditions within their communities.246 This violation of their right to culture and survival, affects them at the spiritual, individual, and collective levels. The Commission also underscores that individual acts of sexual violence and the health-related illnesses suffered by indigenous women threaten their physical integrity, the continuation of their culture and survival, and constitute a form of spiritual violence, harming them individually and collectively.247 
  
3. Violence related to the militarization of indigenous lands 
109. The militarization of indigenous territories –which can result from armed conflicts, the implementation of development mega-projects, as well as government security policies – often places members of indigenous communities at grave risk of violence that implicates their rights to life, personal integrity, and their physical and cultural survival.248 Armed groups, including members of organized crime, and State actors, sometimes acting through the aforementioned members of organized crime, mobilize in order to gain control over the natural resources on indigenous lands, exposing indigenous women to the risk of militarized violence.249 In this context, the IACHR has received information that indigenous women have faced sexual violence, trafficking and the types of violence unique to militarization, like landmines, and forced recruitment. 

110. Indigenous leaders have reported on the link between development megaprojects and the militarization of indigenous lands in the case of Nicaragua and the construction of the Trans-Oceanic Canal.250 In a hearing on the human rights implications of this project, the Commission received information indicating that the police and the army have conducted excursions into indigenous lands, starting at the beginning of the project.251 Indigenous leaders also reported to the Commission that the zones around the canal, over 50% of which affect the Rama and Criol indigenous peoples and afro-descendant peoples, have become militarized, with even primary schools being occupied as barracks.252 Given the household responsibilities of indigenous women and their roles as spiritual leaders in charge of the continuation of indigenous culture, it is alleged that the militarization of their lands, the environmental damage, as well as the forced displacement and consequent danger of the extinction of the Rama language, will have a disproportionate impact on the indigenous women.253 

111. At a regional level, the Commission has also received information indicating that the militarization of indigenous lands in the Americas exposes indigenous women to sexual violence, including rape by the military forces, forced prostitution, and sexual slavery.254 The Commission highlights two cases decided by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights pertaining to the sexual torture of indigenous women in the context of militarization. In the cases of Valentina Rosendo Cantú and Inés Fernández Ortega, regarding two indigenous women who were raped by members of the Mexican military as discussed earlier, the Court specifically took into consideration the military presence in the area surrounding the victim’s home and community in its analysis of the violations in the case.255  

112. The Commission has also received information regarding the conflicts taking place in Colombia between third party individuals, armed groups and economic actors that want to lay claim to their traditional indigenous territories, because of their military and economic value, as well as the natural resources they hold.256 The territories are also of military and economic strategic importance, as corridors for troop transport and safe haven, for weapons trafficking, and for the growing, processing, and trafficking of drugs. 257 Indigenous women leaders have informed the Commission that the struggle for control of land has, over the course of the conflict, provoked an increased presence of paramilitaries and organized crime, and an increase in cases of forced prostitution.258 Specifically, the Commission notes its concern over the trafficking and sale of Miskito 
children through the Rio Coco and Rio Abajo in Nicaragua.259 Organizations of women, such as the Wanky Tangny, have publically denounced the existence of trafficking networks along the border between Nicaragua and Honduras.260  

4. Domestic Violence 

113. Indigenous women have informed the Commission through various mechanisms of the problem of the problem of domestic violence. However, most of these incidents are not reported or documented in the Americas. In this regard, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples has indicated the following: “[i]nformation on domestic violence is limited due to underreporting and lack of investment in data collection. Nonetheless, available data suggests that indigenous women are significantly more likely to be victims of domestic violence than nonindigenous women.”261 It also should be noted that the consequences of domestic violence may be felt more acutely by indigenous women, due to lack of access to support services and justice, and to their specific cultural and economic circumstances.262 

114. According to information received from indigenous groups, international and civil society organizations, colonization and the strategy of nonindigenous actors to disrupt the social cohesion of indigenous communities have introduced and perpetuated the problem of interpersonal, genderbased violence against indigenous women in their communities.263 The Commission, in addressing the situation of violence against indigenous women in Canada, has already explained that: 
The situation of indigenous women in Canada, in turn, exists within a historical context that includes the colonization process and its impacts in the present day. “[T]hrough policies imposed without their consent, indigenous peoples in Canada ‘have had to deal with dispossession of their traditional 
territories, disassociation with their traditional roles and responsibilities, disassociation with participation in political and social decisions in their communities, [and] disassociation of their culture and tradition.” One of the many negative impacts of these policies has been on the relationship between men and women in indigenous communities.264 

115. Given that indigenous women are considered spiritual leaders and essential for the survival of indigenous communities, indigenous groups emphasize that “many indigenous philosophical, spiritual, cultural, and economic norms historically mediated against gender violence, which was viewed within the tradition as essentially deviant behavior.”265 In fact, the IACHR has indicated that, in some indigenous communities, patriarchy and male dominance were imposed on matriarchal cultures, targeting the power of indigenous women as decision makers, leaders, and equal members of their community […].266 In these cases, the reversal of this traditional view of gender violence has been traced back to colonization and its violations of indigenous peoples’ collective rights. 267 The IACHR understands that domestic violence can also constitute spiritual violence, because it may affect both the women individually, and also entail harm to the collective identity of the communities to which they belong.268 

116. The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has also observed that “cultures of violence, imposed by systemic racism and the infliction of direct, symbolic and structural violence against indigenous peoples through colonization, are reproduced in countless ways, leading to the implosion and severe dysfunction of many indigenous communities and cultures and subsequent increased rates of violence against women and girls.” 269 Similarly, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people has noted that many of the potential root causes for domestic violence against indigenous women “are linked to human rights issues specific to indigenous peoples and historical violations of their rights, including a violent family environment; abusive State policies at a young age; financial problems and poverty; unemployment; lack of education; poor physical and mental health; racism-induced stress; denial of rights to self-determination, land and culture, among others, leading to loss of identity and self-esteem; and a breakdown of community kinship systems and Aboriginal law.”270 

117. The Commission has also received information on the prevalence of domestic violence suffered by indigenous women in countries including Guatemala, Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Canada and the United States of America. According to information received by the Public Office for the Defense of Indigenous Women’s rights in Guatemala [“Defensoría de la Mujer Indígena,” or “DEMI”], it is estimated that one third of indigenous women who live with a man suffer from domestic violence, with young women facing a higher rate of violence.271 In the case of Brazil, for example, data from the Office of the Public Defender of the State of Mato Grosso do Sul indicated that reported cases of domestic violence against indigenous women in the region had increased almost 600% between 2010 and 2015, which brought the State to translate the Maia da Penha Law into two indigenous languages, Guarani and Terena272. With respect to Mexico, the civil society organization Equis has indicated that 47% of indigenous women over the age of 15 had suffered some form of violence in their relationships.273 Regarding Bolivia, a twofold higher risk of partner violence has been identified for women who speak a language other than Spanish at home.274 In Ecuador, women who identify themselves as indigenous report higher levels of partner violence that those who identify themselves as mestizo or white.275 Indigenous women in Canada “are nearly three times as likely to experience violence as non-aboriginal women,” regardless of whether the violence occurs between strangers, acquaintances, or within a spousal relationship.276 With regards to the United States, the Commission has received information indicating that “American Indians and Alaska Natives [women] are 2.5 times as likely to experience violent crimes – and at least 2 times more likely to experience rape or sexual assault crimes – compared to all other races,”277 and that “39 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be subjected to violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.”278 The information received indicates that the perpetrators of the different types of violence are for the most part non-Native.279 For example, regarding rape or sexual assault, an average of 67 percent of victims described the offender as non-Native; regarding physical assault, 63 percent of offenders were identified as non-Native.280 

5. Violence in the exercise of their  economic, social and cultural rights 

118. Indigenous women suffer from multiple forms of violence in the exercise of their economic, social and cultural rights. The violation of these rights is inextricably linked to the structural violence that they face, as well as the intersectional forms of discrimination that have historically affected them. The IACHR has established that many indigenous women live in a situation of poverty as a result of their exclusion from the social and economic benefits available in their countries.281 The many forms of discrimination to which they are subjected – ethnic, racial, socio-economic, and gender-based – raise significant barriers for them to access basic health and education services, food, decent and quality employment, and full participation in public and political life in their countries, thus curtailing their access to their fundamental human rights.282 

119. In different regions of the world, there have been “severe historical violations of indigenous women’s rights in relation to sexual and reproductive rights in the context of denial of their right to selfdetermination and cultural autonomy,” which include forced sterilization, the imposition of contraceptive measures absent consent or information, and attempts to coerce indigenous women into having children with nonindigenous men.283 The Commission has received information that, while attempting to access healthcare, indigenous women in numerous Latin American countries have been forcibly sterilized or forced to use contraceptives.284 The IACHR addressed the problem of forced sterilization of an indigenous woman in the case of María Mamérita Mestanza Chávez, in which the State of Peru recognized that the victim, an indigenous woman, was forced to undergo a surgical sterilization that ultimately led to her death.285 In this case, the State and the petitioners reached a friendly settlement agreement. 

120. During the hearing on Maternal Health and Reports of Obstetric Violence in Mexico, held during the 150th Period of Sessions, the IACHR was informed that obstetric violence disproportionately affects indigenous women and women in a situation of poverty.286 The Commission has also been informed of indigenous women in Mexico being denied medical attention when they arrive at hospitals while pregnant, incidents of medical malpractice, and violations of their right to access to information, among others.287 The IACHR received information, in response to the questionnaire, regarding three indigenous women who gave birth on lawns outside of hospitals in Oaxaca, Mexico, after being rejected by hospital staff.288 

121. During its recent working visit to Guyana, the Commission received information from several organizations with regards to the serious structural challenges indigenous peoples continue to face, including failure to respect their land rights, the acute poverty that affects people living in rural and remote areas, the failure to integrate an intercultural perspective in the country’s education curriculum and to include indigenous languages, the problems of violence and trafficking of persons that affect indigenous women, and discriminatory social stereotypes that hinder social participation and access to decent work and adequate health care services for indigenous peoples.289 

6. Violence against indigenous women human rights defenders and defenders of indigenous women’s rights 
122. The Commission also considers it important to take into account the violence and intimidation faced by the human rights defenders who work to advance the human rights of indigenous women, and address their situation of poverty and marginalization. The Commission has underscored that “murders, extrajudicial executions, and forced disappearances committed against human rights defenders are the most serious obstacles to the exercise of promoting and protecting human rights.”290 Across the region, the Commission has observed a pattern of assaults, threats, and harassment against the personal integrity of human rights defenders.291 In this regard, the IACHR has received troubling information concerning the treatment of human rights defenders in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, the United States and Venezuela, among other countries.292 

123. In particular, the human rights organizations working on the defense of indigenous and women’s rights have frequently been targets of attacks on their life.293 On September 18, 2013, after a working visit to Guatemala, former IACHR Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Dinah Shelton expressed her concern over reports of murder, rape, threats, and acts of harassment directed against indigenous authorities and leaders and human rights defenders in the country.294 In 2014, the Commission reported the murders of Mayan and Asháninka leaders and human rights defenders in Guatemala and Peru.295 The IACHR further takes note of the concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in which CERD expressed its concern over the attacks and murders perpetrated against indigenous defenders in Guatemala,296 as well as the serious physical assaults perpetrated against indigenous defenders in Honduras.297 A group of indigenous women experts described to the Commission how indigenous women human rights defenders were being specifically targeted for such attacks, particularly in the context of armed conflicts.298 In a hearing before the Commission, civil society organizations denounced a differentiated use of violence against indigenous women leaders and defenders, and an increased use of targeted gendered and sexual violence as a strategy to pressure them away from their lands and towards cities, making way for extractive activities.299 

124. Women human rights defenders face additional forms of discrimination.300 The IACHR has received information regarding the particularly grave risk to women human rights defenders in the context of armed conflicts, often targeted for harassment, threats and attacks in order for the armed groups to exercise “social control” over territories.301 Moreover, indigenous women human rights defenders are exposed to additional disrespect and harassment by State authorities and armed actors when they work to promote and defend women’s rights, exacerbating the dual discrimination they already face based on their gender and race. 302 Specifically, the Commission has been informed that women human rights defenders face criminalization and prosecution when promoting and defending women’s sexual and reproductive rights, in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, for example.303 In these cases, they are “accused of undermining moral values or social institutions like the family.”304 In Colombia, women human rights defenders who fought for land restitution on behalf of displaced persons and who were involved in the peace process - such as is the case of some indigenous leaders - have been specific targets of threats and violence.305 The Commission and the Court, in the matter of Ana Teresa Yarce et al v. Colombia, both concluded that there is a context of heightened risk faced by women human rights defenders in Colombia.306 In this regard, it is important to note the important advances supported by the State of Colombia in the implementation of a specialized gender protocol to enhance the protection of women’s rights defenders, indigenous women leaders, and journalists in the context of its national protection mechanism. Despite these efforts, the situation remains of concern to the Commission.307 

125. The Commission was also informed in the context of a hearing of the violence with which Dakota State county authorities in the United States repressed women human rights defenders who were protesting peacefully against the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, and how the most severe injuries on the frontline had been sustained by women.308 In this sense, the Commission received allegations that a pregnant woman was injured by a rubber bullet, a young girl had lost her eye after being hit, and a young women nearly lost the use of her arm after a device exploded.309 

126. The Commission has found that repeated attacks and threats against human rights defenders, along with the criminalization of their efforts, can have a significant chilling effect on their work.310 Additionally, the Commission has received information about the exclusion of indigenous women human rights defenders from leadership roles in Nicaragua with the explanation that they supposedly lack experience in negotiating with the non-indigenous third-party actors.311 The Commission was informed during both of its follow-up hearings on the situation of murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada about a similar situation where none of the indigenous women’s associations were included by the government of Canada to participate in the design of the terms of reference and the implementation of the National Inquiry into the situation of Murdered and Missing Aboriginal 


Women, consulting only male-led indigenous organizations.312 As such, the constant attacks  whether internal to their communities or external  aimed at undermining the efforts of human rights defenders of indigenous women’s rights, increases the gravity of the human rights situation of indigenous women, silencing the persons who defend and promote their rights. The combination of this pattern of violence against human rights defenders and the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination faced by indigenous women create conditions that facilitate and perpetuate violence against indigenous women. 

7. Violence in urban settings and during  displacement and migratory processes 

127. Across the Americas, an increasing number of indigenous peoples are compelled by economic need, armed conflict, and the denial of land rights, to migrate from their home communities in rural areas to urban centres.313 They relocate in urban areas to study, find work, and seek out a better life for themselves and their families, but also “to flee conditions of family and social persecution that attempt against their life and their integrity.”314 

128. This migration away from their usual safety nets, cultural practices, and their ancestral lands and resources, towards large cities, the labor market and vastly different values and customs make for a difficult transition into the urban setting. This transition is of greater difficulty and is a source of greater vulnerability for indigenous women and girls, who are faced with manifold sources of discrimination, who tend to find themselves in precarious socio-economic situations and have dependents to take care of. As was emphasized by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples in her report on the situation of indigenous women, “Indigenous women and girls who leave their communities are highly vulnerable to trafficking, which can lead to multiple violations of their human rights, including severe economic and sexual exploitation and sexual violence.”315 A 
report from the Commissioner in charge of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry of British Columbia, Canada affirmed that “there is no question that the transition from the North to an urban center makes young women particularly vulnerable” and, without support during this transition period, indigenous women face an increased vulnerability to homelessness, drug addiction, extreme poverty, and violence. 316 

129. For his part, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment highlighted, in a report of January 2016, that the abuse that women suffered during migration attained such levels that they could amount to torture and ill-treatment: “[m]igrants […] worldwide face grave human rights violations during the migration process. Physical violence, threats and abductions by smugglers, traffickers and organized criminal groups are common. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, exploitation and slavery along migration routes. Such abuses can amount to torture and ill-treatment [...].”317 

130. In addition, migration or displacement towards cities in itself is perilous for indigenous women. In its report on Access to justice for women victim of sexual violence in Mesoamerica, the IACHR indicated that: “Migrant women suffer different forms of sexual violence such as forced prostitution, trafficking of persons for the purposes of sexual or labor exploitation; […] rape and sexual abuses during transit or permanence in the destination country, […] physical, sexual and psychological violence exercise in the home, and kidnappings.”318 The obstacles that migrant women encounter in attempts to access the justice system are increased by their immigration status when they are fleeing the country where they lived. 

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