In December 2007, the Indian Law Resource Center highlighted violence against Native women in a collaborative report in response to the United States’ report on its compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, a legally binding treaty adopted by the United Nations in 1965 and ratified by the United States in 1994. The Convention provides numerous protections for Native women. Under the Convention, the United States must refrain from practicing racial discrimination AND ensure, among others, the right to security of person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm, the right to equal treatment in the administration of justice, and the right of everyone to equality before the law.
After receiving the report the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the human rights body that monitors compliance with the Convention, requested more information on the epidemic of violence against Native women in the United States. In February 2008, a delegation of experts on violence against Native women provided testimony on the disproportionately high rates of violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women at a session of the CERD in Geneva, Switzerland. The delegation included Navajo Nation First Lady Vikki Shirley, Navajo Nation Domestic Violence Task Force; Terri Henry, Principal Director of Clan Star, Inc., and NCAI Violence Against Native Women Taskforce; and, Virginia Davis, NCAI Associate Counsel.
In March 2008, CERD formally criticized the United States for not doing more to prevent and punish violence against Native women. In its Concluding Observations and Recommendations on the United States’ compliance with the CERD Convention, the Committee explained:
The Committee also notes with concern that the alleged insufficient will of federal and state authorities to take action with regard to such violence and abuse often deprives victims belonging to racial, ethnic and national minorities, and in particular Native American women, of their right to access to justice and the right to obtain adequate reparation or satisfaction for damages suffered. (Articles 5(b) and 6).
Since CERD issued its Concluding Observations and Recommendations, Native women’s advocates have been using the report to remind the United States government of its international obligation to protect Native women from violence.
Read First Lady Vikki Shirley's testimony before CERD.
US Urged to Provide Native Women Equal Access to Justice
Native Women Ask UN to Help Stop Violence