Indigenous Women’s access to justice tampered by cultural barriers


The Shared Societies’ Project supports celebration of cultural differences as a way for social inclusion and cohesion. However, when cultural differences become barriers they need to be scrutinized and reconsidered. We all have our traditions that we like to exercise but when traditions and culture become barriers to a positive social change, it is time to acknowledge and address them.

Professor Megan Davis has told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that:

Indigenous women are often invisible in the administration of justice, posing a serious obstacle to basic freedoms and fundamental rights to self-determination…

Although, she was talking mainly about aboriginal women in Australia, Indigenous women across the globe are often subjected to double discrimination when it comes to the enjoyment of their rights. They are discriminated because they are indigenous and further discriminated because they are women. In her report, Davis found that indigenous women access to justice is a major issue, namely in cases of domestic violence.

In many communities it is reported that there are cultural barriers to access to justice: discussion of violence against indigenous women by indigenous men is taboo and indigenous women are accused of being “disloyal” or “corrupted by Western concepts.

Davis also pointed out the lack of assistance and insufficient legal aid to deal with civil and criminal matters for indigenous women. Mistrust of authorities, fears of police brutality, cultural insensitivity and lack of education were also named as barriers for indigenous women to seek justice.

Davis made a clear point in suggesting that Indigenous People need to find solutions for themselves, but

states should increase indigenous peoples own participation in the design, delivery and oversight of programmes aimed at preventing and providing remedies for violence against women and girls.

Club de Madrid and the Shared Societies Project strongly advocate for the participation of indigenous peoples in political decision making. Moreover, creating the right environment for indigenous women participation in politics is strongly encouraged. This year’s Club de Madrid Annual Conference (“Harnessing 21st Century Solutions: A Focus on Women“) will explore specific challenges to women’s broader participation in society given the current economic and political realities as well as identify and share best practices and recommendations that will allow governments and private sector to create enabling environments for women to realize their full economic and political potential.

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