Professor Megan Davis chairs UN Expert Group meeting on Violence Against Women

In January 2012 Professor Davis was elected Rapporteur for a three-day United Nations international expert group meeting on the theme “Combating violence against indigenous women and girls” article 22 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of indigenous peoples”.  During the meeting participants noted the importance of Article 22 (2) of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) − that recognizes the rights and special needs of women and children and calls upon States to adopt measures, in conjunction with indigenous peoples to ensure that women and indigenous children enjoy protection and guarantees against all forms violence and discrimination. There was a number of experts who attended including: Rauna Kuokkannen (Arctic); Edwina Kotoisuva (Pacific); Guadalupe Martinez Perez (Central and South America); Valeriya Savran (Russian Federation); Sangeeta Lama (Asia); Terri Henry (North America); Professor James Anaya, Special Rappporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Vital Bambanze, Chair, Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Many issues were discussed including the many different manifestations of violence: interpersonal and structural; ‘public’ and ‘private’ domain; non-state actors and state actors; political, social, economic, spiritual, physical, sexual, psychological and environmental manifestations.  Many historical and contemporary examples of violence were discussed including sex trafficking, prostitution, bonded labour, overseas contract workers, internally displaced women, missing and murdered aboriginal women, witch hunting or witch blaming, environmental violence, cultural practices such as female genital mutilation/cutting, bride price, promised brides as well as racism and discrimination.

Also it was discussed that in combating violence it is important to distinguish gendered forms of violence from general manifestations of violence because if we do not look at the interpersonal nature of gender violence – between a man and a woman - we will fail to address the endemic levels of violence against indigenous women and girls in indigenous communities.

Finally while the trauma of colonisation explains the reason for destructive behaviours, it does not mean that indigenous men should not take responsibility for their behaviour. Professor Davis will present the report to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, of which she is a member, in May 2012.

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