33rd Human Rights Council - Rights of Indigenous People

Theme: The causes and consequences of violence against indigenous women and girls, including those with disabilities.

Opening statements: Mr. Adam Abdelmoula, Director, Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Moderator: Mr. Albert Kwokwo Barume, Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People.

•    Ms. Aili Keskitalo (Norway), President, Sami Parliament of Norway.
•    Ms. Olga Montúfar Contreras (Mexico), Director, Fundación Paso a Paso.
•    Ms. Hannah McGlade (Australia), OHCHR Senior Indigenous Fellow and Senior Indigenous Research Fellow at Curtin University.
•    Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (Philippines), Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.


1. Opening statements

Mr. Abdelmoula opened the session by saying that we would focus on the question of the access of justice of indigenous1 women and girls. The indigenous women are the victims of more violence than the rest of the women. He also noted that quantitative data is often missing about violence on indigenous women and girls.

Then, he explained the case of Guatemala where sexual abusers have been successively prosecuted. However, he admitted that an additional effort has to be made, especially on access to justice. Indigenous women face a lot of barriers, like geographical distance or mistrust in the domestic justice system, because of justice is mostly made by men. Many countries denied the existence of justice discrimination on indigenous women.

Mr. Abdelmoula concluded with 6 recommendations to break the “victim-offender cycle”: 1) encourage the participation of women in all the level of responsibilities to fight the lack of women support and the cultural misunderstandings, 2) to recognize historical vulnerabilities and the impact of colonialism on indigenous women today, 3) to improve legal aid and witness protection as well as legal documents translations, 4) to make education campaigns against women discriminations, 5) to recognize traumas and the place of domestic health and 6) to denounce violence against indigenous women and girls through international institutions.

2. Panelists contributions

Ms. Keskitalo shed lights on the lack of statistics data on Sami issues, people inhabiting the Artic area shared in different countries. A research showed that nearly half of Sami women have been exposed to violence during their lifetime, while 29% for the other women. She regrets the lack of studies to understand the exposition to violence of Sami women. Ms. Keskitalo called for the implementation of the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous people. « Do not forget us, we are still here », Ms. Keskitalo concluded.

Ms. Montúfar Contreras discussed the difficulty of measuring the violence against indigenous women with disabilities. Indeed, many women don’t consider their experiences as discriminations, but as the natural result of their situation. In the contrary, there are taught to be grateful and therefore don’t ask equal treatment. They have low expectations of life. Indigenous women and girls must be empowered to claim their rights. Ms. Montúfar Contreras called for a reduction of the information gap, particularly with the help of the civil society, and urged states to protect their rights.

Ms. McGlade spoke about the lower protection of women in the legal system in Australia. She gave multiple example of Aboriginal women cases. For instance, an Aboriginal woman died because of the absence of medical treatment in prison. The prison guards said they thought that she was faking her disease. Women are often seen by the justice system more as offenders than victims, while it is mainly not the case. Ms. McGlade called states to encourage more dialogues and to defend the rights of indigenous women and girls.

Ms. Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, reminded the main points of her report. She showed that discrimination against indigenous women were multifaceted and self-reinforcing, based on gender and ethnic origins with a strong intergenerational element. Their discriminations are the consequences of colonization and are maintained by postcolonial power structures. She particularly mentioned the effect of the loss of the land, which leads to exploitation of women. She insisted on a very important number: more than a third of indigenous women are raped during their lifetime. She called states to take into account the multipolar factors of discrimination and asked for a special UN session on this topic.

3. Speakers declarations

Frederica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, said that ending violence must be one of the highest priorities of the EU member states. The representative of China declared that “there are no indigenous people in China” but his country encourages the defense of their rights in the world. Other representatives of States and NGOs called to defend the rights of indigenous women and to improve their access to justice.


(1) “The concept of “indigenous peoples” is not defined under international law. However, its generally accepted characteristics include: self-identification as an indigenous people; the existence of and desire to maintain a special relationship with ancestral territories; distinct social, economic or political systems from mainstream society, which may be reflected in language, culture, beliefs and customary law; and a historically non-dominant position within society.” (A/HRC/33/42, §15, p. 5)


FL - Research Assistant at CIPADH


4. Webographie


HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL (2016, 11 August). A/HRC/33/42 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz [en ligne]. URL: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session33/Documents...