Friday, January 11, 2019


228. The information gathered by the IACHR through its different human rights protection and promotion mechanisms corroborates that indigenous women have faced and continue to confront multiple forms of discrimination based on their gender, ethnicity, and situation of poverty, which heightens their exposure to human rights violations in different contexts. In this report, the Commission provides an analysis of the general human rights situation of indigenous women in the hemisphere, identifying areas where challenges must be addressed, as well as providing guidelines for States to use when designing and implementing measures to respect and ensure indigenous women’s human rights.

229. The IACHR recognizes the efforts made by various States of the region to address the situation of indigenous women’s human rights. However, formidable barriers still remain and it is essential that States continue working to find solutions to meet the particular needs of indigenous women and to fully respect and guarantee all of their human rights. It is important to include indigenous women and the organizations that represent them in the design and monitoring of State measures intended to advance their human rights, and to incorporate a holistic, gender, and ethno-racial approach, as described in this report.

230. Indigenous women also encounter different forms of discrimination and violence in their own communities. Consequently, indigenous justice systems must be compatible with internationally recognized human rights, just as State justice systems are required to be. Accordingly, they also have the duty to act with due diligence in preventing, investigating, and punishing violence against women, as well as to implement any necessary measures to eradicate the obstacles that prevent indigenous women from fully exercising their human rights without discrimination. 

231. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concludes this report with ten recommendations to assist States in their ongoing efforts to prevent and respond to human rights violations affecting indigenous women, and confirms its disposition to collaborate in this process:
  • 1. Design, adopt, and implement an action plan to repeal the domestic legal provisions that are inconsistent with the guiding principles laid out above, and refrain from adopting laws incompatible with these guiding principles. Incorporate in all laws and policies that affect indigenous women a holistic approach to address the multiple and interconnected forms of discrimination encountered by them in different contexts, protecting both their individual and collective rights. The holistic approach must recognize the special role played by indigenous women in their communities, with a view to transform and rectify the structural and historical forms of discrimination affecting them;
  • 2. Design, adopt, and implement a gender-based, ethno-racial, and intercultural perspective to prevent, investigate, prosecute, and punish all forms of violence against indigenous women. The gender-based, ethno-racial, and intercultural perspective must also be incorporated into the formulation of reparations so they have a transformative effect on the multiple and interconnected forms of discrimination faced by indigenous women;
  • 3. Generate spaces of coordination between the State justice systems and traditional indigenous justice systems to incorporate a gender and intercultural perspective to improve the judicial protection of indigenous women when they suffer human rights violations. These spaces must promote the active participation of indigenous women in the systems of administration of justice and in the development of approaches to reparations;
  • 4. In accordance with the right to self-determination, adopt appropriate measures to ensure the civil and political rights associated with indigenous women’s exercise of full citizenship;  and create spaces for the full and active participation of indigenous women in the design and implementation of initiatives, programs, and policies at all levels of government; those related to indigenous women, as well as those related generally to indigenous peoples as a whole;
  • 5. Identify and institutionalize new forms of gender and cultural competency training for public servants from all sectors of government, including lawyers, judges, and teachers, in order to fully guarantee indigenous women’s right to live free from violence and make sure that, in the performance of their duties, public servants fully respect the physical and psychological integrity of indigenous women;
  • 6. Incorporate a gender and intercultural perspective in guaranteeing the right to a dignified life, free from discrimination; recognize that the right to a dignified life includes recognition of indigenous conceptions of community, culture, and family life; and therefore, revise its public policies, programs, and legislation in order to eradicate all forms of discrimination against indigenous women, and adequately reflect a gender and intercultural perspective;
  • 7. Adopt all appropriate measures to promote and protect indigenous women’s economic, social, and cultural rights with the goal of ensuring full access to basic health and education services, food, and water, among other things. This includes guaranteeing the use and enjoyment of their ancestral lands and territories, ensuring their collective rights to ownership of their ancestral lands via titling, delimitation, demarcation and possession, as these steps are fundamental to the physical and cultural survival of indigenous peoples;
  • 8. Produce comprehensive and disaggregated statistics on violence and discrimination against indigenous women, their access to justice, and their access to economic, social and cultural rights, as well as other quantitative and qualitative information that may be relevant to ensure their human rights; periodically update them to provide an accurate picture of the situation of violence and discrimination affecting indigenous women; and consider this information to design government policies and programs to effectively combat violence and discrimination against indigenous women, as well as to promote access to justice and the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights;
  • 9. Adopt special and differentiated measures for the protection of the lives and safety of indigenous women human rights defenders and leaders, in view of the three tiers of vulnerability faced by them as women, members of indigenous communities, and often living in situations of poverty;
  • 10. Ensure the application of each of the seven guiding principles detailed previously in this report when designing and implementing policies that affect indigenous women.
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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Economic, Social, and Cultural Dimensions of Indigenous Women’s Rights 19 /20

Chapter 6 C. Conclusions
226. International and inter-American instruments provide for a wide array of economic, social and cultural rights, which are understood as indivisible and interdependent with civil and political rights. However, indigenous peoples, as compared to the rest of the population, continue to endure higher rates of poverty and lack of access to basic services, education, and health care, and indigenous women and girls are the most affected. As was demonstrated above, indigenous women and girls are particularly affected by violations of their right to education, to health, to food and to clean water, their right to work and their right to culture. These violations of their rights make them more susceptible to violence.
227. As such, the Commission underscores that the impact of various economic, social and cultural rights violations that still plague indigenous women increases their vulnerability to violence and to other violations of their fundamental rights, and requires immediate and effective State intervention. The effectiveness of any measure which relates to the protection of indigenous women will be contingent on State integration of a holistic, intercultural, and gender-based approach in the design and implementation of laws, policies, and programs aimed at addressing these issues.
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Monday, January 7, 2019

Indigenous Women’s Cultural Rights 18/20

219. According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights, cultural rights are meant to “protect the rights of each person, individually and in community with others, as well as groups of people, to develop and express their humanity, their world view and the meanings they assign to human existence and development through, inter alia, values, beliefs, convictions, languages, knowledge and the arts, institutions and ways of life.”543 These rights also protect access to tangible and intangible cultural heritage as important resources enabling such identification and development processes.544 The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has found that the right to culture in the context of indigenous peoples includes the right to self-determination, to their own culture, customs and languages, and the right to their institutions, and judicial systems.545

220. In order to ensure respect for the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples, the close connection between indigenous peoples’ cultural and language rights and their rights related to their lands, territories and natural resources must be recognized. 546 Additionally, indigenous peoples’ connections to traditional territories, to their homes and to their communities are important, even for those who have migrated elsewhere for work and education, to preserving and developing indigenous cultures.547 The Inter-American Court has held that the culture of the members of indigenous communities “corresponds to a specific way of life, of being, seeing and acting in the world, constituted on the basis of their close relationship with their traditional lands and natural resources, not only because these are their main means of subsistence, but also because they are an integral element of their cosmology, their spirituality and, consequently, their cultural identity.”548 The IACHR has previously noted that indigenous women belong to societies where ancestral land is an essential element of their existence and culture.549 In the context of a visit conducted by the Commission to Colombia, indigenous women stated that their survival is linked to preserving their lands, because that is where they can freely express their culture.550 Indigenous woman from Trinidad and Tobago and from Belize, respectively, informed the Commission of the central role women play in passing down culture from one generation to the next, affirming that “culture is who we are as indigenous women,”551 and that, “[indigenous] women are seen as the protectors and custodians of cultural values, customs and practices, and are protectors of that knowledge. They have the power to translate this knowledge to satisfy the sustainable lives of their children.”552 In addition, they spoke of the strength and resilience of  indigenous women, and of their ability to empower entire communities through the revival of their traditional knowledge on their culture or land preservation.553

221. In her report on indigenous peoples and their relationship to the land, former UN Special Rapporteur of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations, Erica-Irene Daes, identified several elements: a) indigenous peoples have a deep relationship with their lands, territories, and resources; b) it is a relationship involving a variety of dimensions and social, cultural, spiritual, economic, and political responsibilities; c) the collective dimension of that relationship is important; and d) the intergenerational aspect of this relationship is fundamental to the cultural identity, survival, and viability of indigenous peoples.554 The IACHR has addressed the unique relationship between indigenous peoples and their lands on many occasions, expressing that “the use and enjoyment of the land and its resources are integral components of the physical and cultural survival of the indigenous communities and the effective realization of their human rights more broadly.”555 The Commission has observed that the particular connection between indigenous communities and their lands and resources is linked to these peoples’ very existence, both in terms of material subsistence and of cultural integrity, and therefore “warrants special measures of protection.”556 Likewise, the Inter-American Court has underscored that “for indigenous communities, relations to the land are not merely a matter of possession and production, but a material and spiritual element which they must fully enjoy, even to preserve their cultural legacy and transmit it to future generations.”557

222. Given that cultural and community identity is highly important to indigenous peoples, the forcible removal of children from their lands and the forced break up of families can have a variety of effects on the community in general and especially, on women and girls. State policies involving forced removal of children from families cause strong intergenerational impacts.

223. The situation of indigenous children and families in Canada provides an emblematic example of violations of the right to cultural identity. From 1879 to 1996, for over a century, as part of government assimilation strategies, the Canadian government established a mandatory residential schools policy for indigenous children. These government-funded and church-run schools and residences were “set up to assimilate Aboriginal people forcibly into the Canadian mainstream by eliminating parental involvement and community involvement in the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual development of Aboriginal children.”558 This policy was based in racist and discriminatory beliefs, they “were based on the assumption Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, "to kill the Indian in the child".”559 More than 150, 000 First Nation, Métis and Inuit children were forcibly removed from their families and placed in boarding schools, where they were purposefully cut off from their indigenous traditions and cultures. At these boarding schools, the indigenous children were provided an inferior education, were instead encouraged to learn a craft or a trade, and school management and staff frequently mistreated and abused their students emotionally, physically and far too often, sexually. In addition to being removed far from their families, having their traditional clothes thrown away, their hair cut, and their customs mocked, they were not permitted to communicate in their native languages, including in letters to their families, who in most instances were neither English nor French speakers.560

224. While also acknowledging that residential schools have scarred many young men and have had lasting effects on them, the IACHR considers that the legacy of the residential school program is a cause and a consequence of the discrimination and violence existing today in Canada against women and indigenous girls.561 This policy caused social disruption, the breakdown of families and communities, as well as trauma for former students.562 Based on information gathered by the IACHR, many indigenous students grew up separated from their cultures, language, and families, affecting their sense of identity and their relationships to their families and communities.563

225. The separation of young children from their families, communities and cultures, paired with the severe discipline, abuse and neglect of children in these schools, are understood as having undermined the ability of many survivors to adequately parent their own children. The former UN Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, has noted that among the results of the residential school era has been a lack of intergenerational transmission of child-raising skills and high rates of substance abuse.564 In this regard, he highlighted the fact that “Aboriginal children continue to be taken into the care of child services at a rate eight times higher than non-indigenous Canadians.” 565 The Commission also received information that demonstrated that the high rates of indigenous child removal in Canada were not only related to the trauma of survivors, but also to the inadequate funding of child welfare services on reserves by the Federal government, in comparison to non-indigenous children.566 The Commission was also informed of the funding and service level disparities in child and family services for indigenous children compared to nonindigenous children that persist to this day. 567 In fact, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded that: “Canada’s child-welfare system has simply continued the assimilation that the residential school system started.”568

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Saturday, January 5, 2019

Poverty and obstacles to earning a decent and good quality living 17/20

Chapter 6-4
213. Indigenous peoples in the Americas endure lower levels of economic and social development as compared to the non-indigenous population. Indigenous women are usually the most affected, inasmuch as they generally have less access to education and employment than indigenous men. According to the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the basic needs of 23.5% of indigenous households in Argentina go unmet, while the percentage of non-indigenous homes with unmet basic needs is 13.8%.530 For its part, the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples notes that in Mexico, 7.4 million persons live in extreme poverty, of which 60% are indigenous.531 Information from the World Bank indicates that 61% of indigenous persons in El Salvador live in conditions of poverty and 38.3% in extreme poverty.532

214. ECLAC has noted that indigenous and non-indigenous women tend to be mainly employed in the tertiary labor sector, which mostly includes commerce and services. 533 Unlike non-indigenous women, indigenous women also play an important role in the primary sector, as a great many of them live in rural areas. In the past years, a shift has been detected among indigenous women from traditional family farming and animal husbandry to other economic sectors, as well as the increased participation by women as labor in agroindustrial exports, and farm work, among other things.534

215. The IACHR has previously expressed its concern over indigenous women, whose human rights are especially at risk, given that their labor rights are usually not adequately protected by laws and regulations.535 A high number of indigenous women belong to the category of unpaid workers, to a greater extent not only than non-indigenous women, but also than indigenous men.536 In urban areas, a high number of indigenous women are engaged in domestic work.537 As domestic workers, they usually do not have social security, they face discrimination, as well as long workdays, among other difficult conditions. 

216. Based on the information received by the IACHR, indigenous women in Guatemala usually work as domestic help without being paid decent wages, and are often exposed to different forms of violence and discrimination.538 The State of Peru indicated in its response to the IACHR questionnaire that indigenous women are more affected by unemployment and  underemployment than the rest of the population; they often perform nonremunerated jobs or are paid lower wages for the same job. In Mexico, the 2009 Survey on Indigenous Women’s Health and Rights (ENSADEMI) reflected that the vast majority - or 76.22% - of indigenous women, are either: self-employed (59.96%), work at home (9.84%) or without pay at family-owned businesses (6.42%).539
217. Indigenous women tend to have less access to social security than the rest of the population. The Commission has received information indicating that indigenous women in the Autonomous Region of the Northern Atlantic in Nicaragua do not have social security coverage even though they are entitled to it under the Constitution, because they mostly work in the informal sector and not under any contractual agreement.540 This same situation can be seen in Mexico where, according to statistics from the Federal Government’s 2013-2018 Social Development sectorial program, 81% of the indigenous population in rural areas does not have access to social security, as compared to 59.1% of the non-indigenous population.541
218. The IACHR notes that States have the obligation to create the conditions that will enable women to have full access to and control over their economic resources, unencumbered by any form of discrimination. This obligation entails devoting priority attention to women in the most vulnerable situations, such as indigenous women, who usually face the greatest obstacles in accessing and controlling their resources.542

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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Food and Access to Water 16/20

Chapter 6-3

207. Compared to the rest of the population, indigenous peoples have greater difficulty accessing adequate food and drinking water. This is the result of the situation of poverty they tend to live in as well as a historical disregard for their rights to control over their lands and natural resources, among other factors. As was held by the Inter-American Court in the judgment of the case of Yakye Axa v. Paraguay, access to and use of ancestral lands and natural resources are closely tied to the right to food and to clean water.513 Consequently, when deprived of adequate food and water, their situation of vulnerability is considerably heightened. The current UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has noted that in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil, indigenous communities face land shortages, which has lead to inadequate access to food and the highest rates of infant mortality recorded in the country.514 

208. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has expressed concern about the absence in Guatemala of a special regime to protect the territories traditionally belonging to indigenous peoples.515 He has also voiced special concern for women, given that they are the targets of discrimination based on their gender, racial, and ethnic background, situation of poverty, and residence in rural areas.516 During the working visit to Guatemala conducted by the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the IACHR noted with concern the forced evictions of indigenous communities, which have placed them in a precarious position and caused a food crisis. In turn, the CEDAW Committee has regarded issues of access to land for indigenous women in that country as troubling, because these women may be displaced as a result of new economic development plans.517 

209. Discrimination against indigenous peoples and women, as reflected for example in violations of their rights in the labor setting and in the levels of poverty, is also a significant obstacle to the realization of the right to food.518 In this regard, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has recommended to the State of Guatemala that it combats discrimination against women, especially indigenous women, and recognizes their rights, particularly to access productive resources and ownership of these.519 

210. In Mexico, the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy has noted that indigenous persons face greater lack of access to food than the non-indigenous population.520 The UNDP reported that 38.7% of indigenous children in Mexico suffer from chronic malnutrition, while the rate for non-indigenous children is three times lower (12.5%). 521 In Guatemala, data from the National Maternal and Child Health Survey (ESMI 2008/2009) found that chronic malnutrition affecting indigenous children was almost twice as high as non-indigenous children, affecting 65.9% of indigenous children in comparison to 36.2% of non-indigenous children.522 Indigenous children in Colombia are also particularly vulnerable to violations of the right to food, as exemplified by the situation of severe malnutrition that is presented by indigenous communities in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, Chocó, Guaviare and Cauca, or by Wayúu children in La Guajira.523 

211. In El Salvador, many indigenous persons live in conditions of poverty, which is further compounded by the historical loss of their lands and natural resources, thus making it difficult for them to gain access to food and contributing to malnutrition.524 The CEDAW Committee has expressed its concern especially over Salvadoran indigenous women, given the persistence of the high levels of poverty and social exclusion they face, as well as the obstacles they encounter in exercising their basic social rights.525 

212. Whether it results from poverty, the loss of their ancestral territories, the pollution thereof, or other factors, indigenous peoples are disproportionately deprived of clean drinking water. In its 2009 Report on the situation of human rights in Venezuela, the IACHR noted with grave concern that nine children from the Warao indigenous peoples had died as a result of their nutritional deterioration and lack of access to drinking water.526 In Panama, the 2010 census revealed that nationwide, an average of 93.3% of all households have access to water that is suitable for human consumption, while in indigenous areas, the averages are much lower (28% in Ngäbe Buglé, 41% on Emberá, and 77% in Guna Yala, while 59%, 42%, and 94% respectively, did not have access to sanitation services). 527 Additionally, based on information provided by the State of Peru, in districts with 50% or more of the population whose first language is indigenous, 62% of households have no water and 59% have no sewage service.528 As recently as December 2015, the IACHR has granted precautionary measures in favor of the children of various Wayúu indigenous communities in Colombia, urging the State to protect the children’s rights to life and physical integrity, following reports of numerous deaths and illnesses related to contaminated water supplies. On January 26, 2017, the IACHR expanded the precautionary measures to include pregnant or lactating indigenous Wayúu women.529 
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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

In Honor Of Women

The Women Who Walk Miles To Feed Their Families
Thank You
Women Who Love When No Love Is Returned
Thank You
Women Who Dance The Stories Of The Ancients
Thank You
Women Who Loose Their Children And Keep On Going
Thank You
Women Who Speak Their Truth To Educate Others
Thank You
Women Of Beauty Who Know Their Power Is To Share
Thank You
Women Who Mother When  Mothering Is Called Upon For Healing
Thank You
Women Who Love Men Enough To Respect Their Differences
Thank You
Women Who Love Themselves Enough To Come Forward
Thank You
Women Who Know The Truth Of Their Soul
Thank You
In Honor Of You
We Honor Women
And Say
Thank You

Copyright Joana Ukali
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