“I thought prostitution was normal living.”
Last week the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition and Prostitution Research & Education, an incredible team of Native American women researchers and activists, released a report on prostitution and trafficking of Native American women in Minnesota.
Garden of Truth is the first study detailing the personal experiences of Native women who have been prostituted and trafficked in Minnesota. The research team interviewed 105 women to assess the life circumstances that led them to prostitution. The study found about half of the women met a conservative legal definition of sex trafficking which involves third-party control over the prostituting person by pimps or traffickers.
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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.
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HUGE thanks and a heartfelt congratulations to everyone who has been involved in Amnesty International’s Stop Violence Against Women work, and in particular, the work to end sexual violence and rape against Native American and Alaska Native women in the U.S.
The House just passed H.R. 725, to which the Tribal Law and Order Act was attached as an amendment, by a vote of 326 yays to 92 nays. This historic and long-overdue legislation will now go to President Obama to be signed into law!!
This will be the major solution for the long-overdue problem of disturbing rates of sexual violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women.
In 2007, Amnesty International published a report titled Maze of Injustice: The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA that exposed the disproportionately high levels of rape and sexual violence that Native American and Alaska Native women suffer in this country. Additionally, it detailed the complex maze of tribal, state and federal jurisdictions that often allows perpetrators, 86 percent of them non-Native men, to rape with impunity. This maze currently dictates that authorities need to establish whether the crime took place on tribal lands and whether the perpetrator was Native or non-Native before prosecuting, meaning that critical time is lost. This leads to inadequate investigations or a failure to respond.
The provisons of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 will remedy this maze as it will enhance the criminal justice system by improving coordination and communication between federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies as well provide beginning steps to empower tribal governments to take more direct action in cases of violent crime. In time it will decrease the high levels of rape and finally provide Native women with effective recourse if they are sexually assaulted. This is a major victory for Native women as it is a critical step toward ensuring that Native women’s human rights are recognized.
Our deepest respect, appreciation and congratulations to all of our members and activists, tribal leaders and Native advocates, friends, family and colleagues – without you this incredible victory would not have been possible.
Two Native American women were gang-raped by three non-Native men in Oklahoma. Because they were forced to wear blindfolds, however, support workers were concerned that the women would be unable to say whether the rapes took place on federal, state or tribal land. Because of jurisdictional complexities and the uncertainty of the locations of these crimes, the women may never see justice served.
It is time to help make a difference in the lives of Native American and Alaska Native women and put an end to the sexual violence that Native women face at a rate that is 2.5 times greater than that of women in the U.S. in general. Passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act will help to do just that.
The Tribal Law and Order Act, attached as an amendment to H.R. 725, is now up for a full floor vote in the House. WHEN it passes, the legislation will go straight to the President to be signed into law.
YOU can make a difference!
TAKE ACTION now and send a letter of support urging your Representative to vote for H.R. 725 with Tribal Law and Order provisions attached, when the bill hits the House floor this week!
A HUGE VICTORY for human rights happened this past Wednesday when the Senate passed H.R. 725, the Indian Arts and Crafts Amendment Act of 2010, which included the majority of the provisions in the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009!
The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009 is a historic, bi-partisan effort to tackle the complex jurisdictional maze that allows violent crime against Indigenous women, and in particular, sexual assault and violence against Native American and Alaska Native women, to go unpunished and unabated.
Championed by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) in the Senate and Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD) in the House, the Tribal Law and Order Act represents an important step forward in combating violence against Native American women. Violence that is an ongoing violation of Native American and Alaska Native women’s most fundamental human rights and freedoms.
Amnesty International detailed this violence in our 2007 report entitled Maze of Injustice: The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA. The report revealed shocking statistics of violence such as the fact that Native American and Alaska Native women are more than two and a half times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the United States in general. The Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009 is in direct response to concerns raised by tribal leaders, tribal organizations, Native American and Alaska Native women and the AIUSA report, which helped bring widespread attention to the high rates of crimes on tribal lands and the obstacles that victims face in securing justice.
The Act will help abate the violence in Indigenous communities by clarifying the responsibilities of, and increasing coordination and communication among, federal, state, and tribal governments with respect to crimes committed in tribal communities. The bill also provides assistance to tribal governments by arming them with the necessary authority, resources, and information to address crimes committed on tribal land. In addition, it helps shed light on the elevated levels of violence in Indian Country by increasing the standardized collection and distribution of criminal data among all levels of government responsible for responding to and investigating crimes in tribal communities, including the data necessary to establish whether or not crimes are being prosecuted.
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The United Nation’s first report on The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, released on January 14, 2010, contains figures and an assessment that are both shocking and illuminating, even to those who are familiar with indigenous rights issues. The report evaluates the state of indigenous populations in specific countries and situations, in both the developed and developing world.
The report states that,
“Indigenous peoples suffer from the consequences of historic injustice, including colonization, dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, oppression and discrimination, as well as lack of control over their own ways of life. Their right to development has been largely denied by colonial and modern States in the pursuit of economic growth”
The United States is by no means exempt from the report’s critique. Despite increased state and federal acknowledgment of the challenges that Native Americans and Alaska Natives face in the U.S., the U.S. has made only incremental change and continues to generate appalling statistics and significant disparities. A recent study that applied the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index (HDI) – which measures health, education and standard of living — to indigenous populations in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand found that while the U.S. ranked seventh overall (globally), U.S. American Indians and Alaska Natives ranked thirtieth.
The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples notes that nearly a quarter of Native Americans and Alaska Natives live below the poverty line in the U.S., compared to about 12.5 percent of the total population, and pinpoints the direct relationship that the educational deficit has upon economic opportunities and employment rates.
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On Thursday, December 10th, the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a hearing to discuss the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009, for which AIUSA was invited to submit written testimony. The bill, a close approximation of the early Senate draft of the bill, would make crucial and desperately needed reforms in tribal justice systems, helping to address the epidemic of sexual violence against Native American and Alaska Native women and girls.
Over the last few years, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) has worked to document the disconcerting realities of law enforcement in Indian Country, especially as they impact the capacity and ability to prevent and respond to sexual violence against women and girls. Our research found that Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the United States in general. In recent months, as both the House and Senate have made headway in pushing their respective bills through committee, it seems that Congressional leaders are finally realizing the true urgency of reforming tribal law enforcement.
Both bills would make crucial steps in ensuring justice in Indian Country. These bills mandate and create structures for improving communication, transparency, and data sharing between tribal, state, and Federal agencies, increase tribal prosecutorial authorities, expand and emphasize the importance of data collection and analysis, and call for the US Attorney General’s Office to document cases it refuses to prosecute. The bills also require training for law enforcement personnel on how to respond to domestic and sexual violent crimes and require Indian Health Services to improve services for victims of sexual assault.
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