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End violence against indigenous women and girls: UN expert

22 June 2022

GENEVA (22 June 2022) – Indigenous women and girls face grave, systematic, and continuous acts of violence that permeate every aspect of their lives while perpetrators enjoy alarming levels of impunity, a UN expert said.

“This violence is rooted in historic and unequal patriarchal power structures, racism, exclusion, and marginalisation enabled by a legacy of colonialism,” said Reem Alsalem, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences in a report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.

“The level of impunity that perpetrators, both State and non-State actors, enjoy is alarming, and the scale and seriousness of violence experienced by indigenous women and girls are inadequately reflected in data collection, legislation, or public policies,” Alsalem said. 

Although the right of indigenous women and girls to be free from violence is enshrined in international law, this has not materialised into effective prevention and protection measures by States, the Special Rapporteur said.

Alsalem’s report presents an overview of the main causes and consequences of gender-based violence against indigenous women and girls. It highlights good practices and challenges to their access to justice and support services. Indigenous women and girls experience systemic discrimination in indigenous and non-indigenous justice systems and confront major barriers in accessing justice, the report said. It called on States to review the interplay of laws between the nation state and indigenous communities to ensure that violence is prevented.

The UN expert warned that the legal lacuna and grey zones on human rights accountability of non-State actors contribute to promoting violence against indigenous women and girls. “Where violence occurs, it must be addressed effectively to end impunity that exists for these crimes,” Alsalem said. “This violence occurs with the full knowledge and often the tacit agreement and support of States,” she said.

Alsalem’s report also provides recommendations for States and other stakeholders to implement policy and legal reforms that will protect the right of indigenous women and girls to a life free from violence. “Indigenous women and girls must be entitled to full, equal and effective participation that goes beyond lip service and sees them as resilient actors rather than only as survivors of violence,” she said.

The Special Rapporteur also presented a report on her country visit to Mongolia.


Ms. Reem Alsalem (Jordan) was appointed Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences by the Human Rights Council in August 2021. She holds a Masters in International Relations from the American University in Cairo, Egypt (2001) and a Masters in Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (2003). She is an independent consultant on gender issues, the rights of refugees and migrants, transitional justice and humanitarian response.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, Ms. Orlagh McCann (+41 22 79902 / [email protected])

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 76 764 2602 / [email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha (+41 79 506 1088 / [email protected])

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