CSW: Violence Against Indigenous Women

Statement by Deputy Foreign Minister Ms. Laila Bokhari at side-event on Violence Against Indigenous Women, 15 March 2017.

| Commission on the Status of Women

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Representatives of the Sámediggi – the Sami Parliament in Norway,

Representatives of AGIMS and Women Changing the World,

Ladies and gentlemen, friends,

I am pleased to be with you today to address an important issue – violence against indigenous women. I want to thank the Sami Parliament and FOKUS for organising this event.

Violence against women is a global challenge. It is a gender equality issue, and a human rights issue. Violence is also a threat to sustainable development.

Gender-based violence happens everywhere, in every society, regardless of social background. It happens at home, at work, at school, on the streets and online. It happens during armed conflicts and in times of peace.

Research shows that indigenous women are particularly at risk when it comes to violence. This includes sexual violence, harmful traditional practices, and labour exploitation and harassment.

Indigenous women are also vulnerable in situations of armed conflict, and in conflicts about control over natural resources.

In addition, we know that many indigenous peoples have experienced violence as a result of policies to promote assimilation.

Concern over violence against indigenous women and girls is a recurrent issue in the reports reviewed by the treaty bodies for various human rights conventions and in the Universal Periodic Review.

That is why addressing this topic is so crucial. 

Reaching agreement on the 2030 Agenda in the UN was a historic event. Now it is time to follow it up. The Sustainable Development Goals rightly include a target (target 5.2) to eliminate of all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres. Our efforts to reach this goal must include indigenous women and girls. No one is to be left behind.

This requires strong national and international legal frameworks prohibiting all forms of violence and sexual abuse. Measures must be put in place to help and protect the victims, and to prosecute and treat the perpetrators.

The Norwegian Government’s view is clear. Violence against women, including domestic violence, is a serious crime. We must prevent and combat it.

Over the last 10 years, we have taken some important steps to improve the situation of women and children affected by violence in Norway. We have ensured that the police give these cases higher priority. We have developed measures to protect victims more effectively. And we have used law enforcement measures and penal codes to underline the seriousness of such violence.

In addition, separate plans and strategies have been developed for different forms of violence. This includes an action plan to combat domestic violence, which is now being escalated.

Later on, we will hear about the findings from a recent research project on violence against Sami women in Norway. This is a joint project between the Sámediggi and the Norwegian Ministry of Justice.

The report was launched on the International Women's Day, 8 March. Sámediggi designated this day to focus on violence against indigenous women. We want to emphasize how important it has been that Sámediggi has taken up this issue. Good cooperation between the Government and Sámediggi has been – and still is – important to have a fruitful process.

 The focus of this research project is on violence in close relationships. That means violence perpetrated by a person or persons known to the victim. A common characteristic for this form of violence is that the victims are mainly women and children.

In dialogue with the police, the child services, social workers and health care providers, the research project has investigated different experiences with providing services to Sami women who have been subjected to violence. This includes both services aimed at prevention and assistance provided to victims.

The research points out the importance of victims being able to communicate in their own language when speaking to service providers. It shows that language is essential not only for communication, but also for building trust.

It also examines how service providers can be sensitive to indigenous culture and experience.

Good policies require good information. To reach the goal of eradicating violence, research and knowledge is key. Research can also be used to engage boys and men, including reaching a better understanding of their attitudes to gender equality and gender based violence.

In many parts of the world, we see that the work for justice and human rights is facing new and increasing challenges. I would like to pay my deepest respect to you who are here today and to thousands of other indigenous women human rights defenders around the world.

As you well know, the price for speaking up against injustice can be high. All too often, human rights defenders are harassed, imprisoned, and in the gravest incidents, even killed.

It is important to remember that this is happening in a world where all states have signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. States are thereby committed not only to improve the situation and strengthen the rights of their own people; they are also obligated to defend those promoting these rights from attacks and to ensure their safety, whether the threat comes from state or non-state actors.

Supporting human rights and the right to gender equality is a clear priority in Norway’s foreign and development policy. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Beijing agenda cannot be achieved unless we take violence against women seriously. We want to strengthen international normative human rights efforts, working closely with civil society. We also want to initiate new measures to involve men in efforts to combat violence against women. Only by working together can we reach the goal of ending all violence against women and girls by 2030.

I look forward to hearing more about your experiences and to further debate on this important issue.