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Indigenous people and ethnic and religious minorities

Last edited: July 03, 2013

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  • Indigenous people around the globe face discrimination, marginalization, and violence based on their indigenous status. They also face poverty, deterioration of social structures and customs, and lack of access to resources, land, education, and health services.  Legacies of colonialism and discrimination have contributed to structural systems of oppression that keep indigenous people – and especially indigenous women – marginalized and at a higher risk of violence (Anaya, 2012).

For research examining the experiences of indigenous victims of sexual violence in the criminal justice system, see Indigenous Law Center. 2010.Sexual Violence and Indigenous Victims: Women, Children and the Criminal Justice System.” Research Brief No. 1.

  • Other ethnic and religious minorities are also disadvantaged around the globe based on their national, religious, linguistic or cultural group and often become more prone to violence during times of conflict (Minority Rights Group International, n.d.).

See research and reports on violence against minorities in conflict settings.

  • Indigenous people and ethnic and religious minorities become caught in armed conflicts out of warring parties’ motivations to acquire power, control territories, or define their county’s identity.  Ethnic cleansing and the intentional exploitation of vulnerable populations – such as indigenous people – are used as strategies of war around the world (Eade & Macleod, 2011).
  • UN Women, UNICEF, UNFPA, ILO, and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children published Breaking the Silence on Violence against Indigenous Girls, Adolescents and Young Women: A call to action based on an overview of existing evidence from Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America (2013), available in English. The study, the first of its kind, reviews existing quantitative and qualitative data on the prevalence and incidence of the types of violence which have already been documented in relation to these groups in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Three countries were selected, one per region, to illustrate the findings. For Latin America, Guatemala was selected for the study to benefit from its widely documented experience as a post-conflict country and for its on-going legislative and institutional reforms aimed at addressing issues such as femicide and sexual violence among indigenous women and girls. For Africa, Kenya was chosen, given available evidence on the prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting among indigenous communities and promising legislative developments in this field. Finally, in the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines was selected because of the involvement of girls and adolescents in armed conflict in the predominantly indigenous area of Mindanao and accompanying initiatives to address this situation.