Ending Sexual Violence Against Indigenous Women in the U.S.

March 10, 2011

Earlier this month, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo issued a statement during her visit to the U.S. scrutinizing the U.S. for its continued failure to prosecute perpetrators of sexual violence crimes against Native American and Alaska Native women and girls.

Consistent with Amnesty International’s findings in 2007’s “Maze of Injustice” report documenting the epidemic of sexual violence in Indian Country, Manjoo met with tribal leaders and advocates, who confirmed Amnesty’s own findings – including Department of Justice statistics citing that 86% of perpetrators of sexual violence against Native women and girls are in fact, non-Native men.

This horrific statistic is an all too familiar, frightening daily reality for Native women – particularly as tribal courts still have no jurisdiction to prosecute non-Native offenders, often leaving survivors of sexual violence without access to justice or redress for crimes committed against them.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day all this week, it is all too clear that the U.S. still has a long way to go in addressing this epidemic of sexual violence against Indigenous women here in the U.S.

But it is equally important to note and applaud the significant, albeit long-awaited, successes of the past year – including President Obama’s historic signing of the Tribal Law and Order Act last July, and the President’s endorsement of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in December 2010. Both Congress and the Administration have demonstrated their commitment to improving public safety and justice services in Indian Country – and we must now ensure that the policies and programs provided in critical legislation such as the Tribal Law and Order Act are not only fully funded, but are also consistent with the provisions of the UNDRIP.

Many important strides have been achieved since the Maze of Injustice report launched Amnesty’s effort to join the countless other tribal leaders, Indigenous rights, and women’s advocates who have worked hard to bring to light the shocking crimes of sexual violence against Native women that have been left in the shadows for far too long.

This International Women’s Day and week, we honor those advocates and those survivors whose incredible strength and efforts continue to drive this work, and these successes. All women have the right to feel and be safe and secure in their own communities.

We have a long way to go – but with your continued advocacy and efforts, we can get there.