Access to justice is key to advancing individual and collective human rights for indigenous women and girls

Date: Monday, October 20, 2014

(New York) To present best practices from across Latin America regarding indigenous women’s rights and access to justice, country representatives from Mexico, Ecuador and Guatemala took part in a side event during the Third Committee of the 69th UN General Assembly. It followed an interactive dialogue led by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

“For indigenous women, the justice process is not quick, effective, nor fair,” said Ms. Tauli-Corpuz. “When we talk of access to justice we must talk of access to justice of individuals but usually also of the collective indigenous peoples.”

She announced the elaboration of a thematic report on indigenous women and children in coordination with treaty bodies such as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The debate comes on the heels of the first World Conference of Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) in September, as States review progress towards the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 20 years after its adoption, and as the Sustainable Development Goals and post-2015 agenda are being defined.

With the goal of reinforcing the need to ensure full realization of indigenous women’s rights, the side event was jointly organized by UN Women and the Government of Mexico (through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Judicial Power), the Permanent Missions of Guatemala and Ecuador, the International Indigenous Women’s Forum, the Alliance of Indigenous Women of Central America and Mexico.

Ambassador Xavier Lasso Mendoza, the Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations presented concrete measures in Ecuador to provide equal access to justice, at all levels, for indigenous women. He mentioned the leadership of the Latin America countries during the 57th Commission on the Status of Women which adopted the resolution “Indigenous Women: key actors in poverty and hunger eradication”, as well as in the WCIP.

“The most important thing is to ensure the active and institutionalized participation of indigenous women,” said Ana Guezmes, UN Women Representative in Mexico. “Access to justice is fundamental so that the development agenda can be more closely tied to the human rights agenda. The change is underway, albeit very slowly. We need better statistics and to earmark many more resources in order to reduce gender and ethnic inequalities.”

UN Women brought together stakeholders such as Member States, indigenous civil society organizations and UN agencies, to facilitate exchange on issues, challenges and solutions to transform justice systems, which are essential tools for the advancement of human rights of indigenous women.

In this regard, María Vallarta, of the Federal Judiciary Council of Mexico, spoke about the challenges involved in strengthening the judicial system and the administration of justice in her country and highlighted some best practices: the gender unit, the justice protocols on indigenous people and gender perspective, the courses on gender and intercultural perspective in association with UN Women and the Women’s Institute for Mexico, among others.  

Participants unanimously stressed that the full implementation of international instruments on the rights of women and indigenous peoples is urgently needed in order to eliminate poverty, the social and economic exclusion of indigenous women, reduce gaps in their access to justice, address their unequal access to resources and opportunities, and to ensure their full and equal participation in society, politics and the economy.

Listen to the statement by Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz before the United Nations Third Committee: