Since women are frequently left out of decision-making and consultative procedures regarding the use of common land and resources, Indigenous WHRDs are targeted for questioning societal norms around gender roles and for daring to speak up against prejudice in their own communities.
Indigenous women and WHRDs are often excluded or ignored from consultations with local communities affected by projects.
This has led in some cases to gender-based violence and defamation campaigns such as the spread of rumors that they are ‘dishonorable women of poor reputation who violate Indigenous traditions by engaging in public participation and advocacy on community concerns.’
These campaigns aim to silence, disempower and alienate women from their families and communities.
The attacks, threats, criminalization and stigmatization against Indigenous WHRDs have a profound impact on their psycho-social security, as well as their physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Beyond the targeted individual WHRD, these attacks affect the entire community. Some attacks are strategized ‘to divide an organization or community, undermine trust in community leadership, deter organizing or protest, or discredit an organization or community through slander.
It is integral that any approach to protection acknowledges that the security of Indigenous WHRDs is often inherently linked to the security of their communities and their territories and can only be fully achieved with a holistic approach, to achieve sustainable and structural changes that guarantee the right of everyone to defend human rights.
This can include the fight against impunity, the reduction of economic inequalities, and striving for social and environmental justice.
Recommendations To State Organs
- Ensure the participation of indigenous women in the development of laws, policies and programmes that affect them and their communities.
- Ensure and guarantee the political participation and informed consent of indigenous women in all decisions related to the exercise of collective property, which includes a duty to ensure the right of indigenous women to restitution, ownership, possession and use of their ancestral land and territories.
- Recognize that any progress towards equality, justice, and peace is only possible within an environment of protection and respect of the right to defend rights of all WHRDs including Indigenous WHRDs.
- Hold to account the perpetrators of violence including structural violence to women rooted in discriminatory, colonial and patriarchal systems.
- Develop measures that effectively address situations where attacks against WHRDs are connected to the intersection of different systems of oppression and violence that limit access to justice and protection.
- Dedicate particular attention to the stop the misuse of criminalization processes by business interests and corporations that use the justice system to silence Indigenous WHRDs and communities affected by their projects.
- Prevent the prevalence of sexual violence against indigenous women as a tool of power and a form of retaliation to install fear and displace indigenous women, leaders and land defenders and members of their family from their ancestral land and territories.
- Create effective protective measures and comprehensive accountability mechanisms, to ensure access to justice for Indigenous women and their communities, including for those who has been dispossessed and displaced from their territories, had to flee violence and/or have been victims of rape and forced pregnancies, among others.
- Ensure access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, in particular emergency contraception and abortion services to victims, in particular to survivors of sexual violence.
- Adopt special measures for the protection of the lives and safety of Indigenous WHRDs given the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination they face as women and as members of Indigenous communities, and the unsafe conditions that characterize their defense work.
- Recognise the Indigenous identity of Indigenous women, particularly where Indigenous communities are not recognised by the state.
- Support Indigenous WHRDs’ own methods for self-protection with their own social networks and support systems, their processes, recognizing their visions, their own concepts of feminism, worldview, and leadership.
- Efforts regarding safety, security and protection of Indigenous WHRDs should be guided by a holistic approach, bearing in mind the principles of intersectionality, self-determination, active participation, indivisibility of rights, and collective protection.
- Finance holistic protection programs that are designed together with WHRDs in order to appropriately respond to the needs of WHRDs, their communities and movements.
- Ensure laws protect freedom of assembly, association and speech for all WHRDs, including indigenous women.