Indigenous and Minority women deliberately targeted for rape and other violence

by July 6, 2011

Women from minority and indigenous communities are deliberately targeted for rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and killings because of their ethnic, religious or indigenous identity, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) says in its newly released annual report.

In "State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011", MRG documents the worldwide pattern of discrimination against women from minority and indigenous communities whether in times of conflict or in times of peace.

"Discrimination against minorities worldwide is time and again experienced by women as physical violence," says Mark Lattimer, Executive Director of Minority Rights Group International. "In war and in peacetime, minority women are singled out for rape because they are less protected and less able to complain."

The report cites numerous cases from armed conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan and Burma, where women from minority and indigenous communities have suffered systematic sexual and other violence specifically because of their identity.

In many of these countries, "rape has been used as a tool of war against women from minority communities," says MRG.

"Minority and indigenous women are in particularly vulnerable positions because they often come from poor socio-economic backgrounds and live in remote areas", MRG continues. "They have little access to justice and in many cases face discrimination from the police and the judicial system because of their minority status and because of their gender."

For instance, according to the report, Dalit women in India face "multiple levels of violence due to caste, class and gender" on a daily basis. In Uganda, 100 percent of women from the Batwa community said they experienced physical violence and in many cases that violence is ongoing. In the UK, there have been increasing reports of violence against Muslim women who can be more easily identified by the hijab or head scarf they wear.

Like other women, minority and indigenous women also face violence from within their own community or their own families. In Canada and Australia, according to the report, the limited available data show high levels of violence against women within indigenous groups, but there are indications that complaints from such women are treated less seriously by the authorities.

The report also makes a strong case that, despite the full spectrum of violence that minority and indigenous women so commonly face, many of them are struggling for their rights to be recognized and treated as equals, to participate in decision-making, to lead their communities. And they are demanding justice.

"Women are not just the victims of violence, they are also its leading opponents," says Shobha Das, Director of Programmes of Minority Rights Group International. "In many countries the struggle to stamp out sexual violence against minorities is being led by minority women activists themselves, sometimes at serious risk to their own safety."

"Much has been achieved over the last decade to highlight the scourge of violence against women around the world. But development agencies, governments and human rights activists need to realise that not all women face the same obstacles, and that violence against women often has a particular ethnic or religious dimension," Lattimer says.

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 is available for download at

  • Patricia Moore
    July 10, 2011 at 1:24 am

    Excuse me but it is NOT Arab women who are being targeted it is the Indigenous English women who are being beaten & raped by Arab men because they will not wear a hijab. Of course it has to be turned around for the poor Arabs because after all who would care about Indigenous Europeans since they are WHITE they are wicked & evil of the devil and the sooner they are exterminated the better Huh. Or how about the Boers who Mugbe claimed was the "Only native white tribe in Africa" who are currently on Genocide watch. A boer woman brutally raped and murdered by having a pointed broomstick rammed up her vagina so hard that it went through her body and the end came out her shoulder simply because she was white. How about 40,000+ Boers (white S.Africans) butchered in S. Africa, simply for being white, why don't we hear anything about this? Because they are white and therefore don't count and are worthy of extermination. I also noticed that on all these Indigenous lists, Indigenous Europeans are never included and why is that because they are WHITE. Why doesn't anyone know of the Celts (the native Scottish & Irish) peoples fight for freedom from England? Because they are white and therefore don't count. How racist of you people. I'm sick of my people being demonized & dehumanized, people acting like my people are not native to anywhere & attrocities done to my people not being known & I will no longer remain silent.


    • Ahni
      July 15, 2011 at 8:59 am

      Patricia, no one here is demonizing "white people" or claiming that it's ok to abuse European women. Nor is anyone even remotely hinting at it.

      It is true that MRI only marginally focused on European women in this report; but still, that doesn't translate into any of these extremes--least of all that white people should be "exterminated".

      You're right though, I don't write much about Europeans here, but then, I don't focus on Jewish people either, or Palestians or the Han (China's majority population, which is, regionally speaking, an Indigenous population) or the Roma. There's many others. That doesn't mean I'm against them, though.

      You have legitimate concerns, but if you want people to be able to see those concerns for what they are, and if you want to generate healthy dialogue, consider a different approach. An offensive like this isn't really going to accomplish anything.

  • July 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    I generally refrain from responding to white nationalist race-baiting, but to give the benefit of the doubt, I will assume ignorance rather than malice here. As a correspondent to Fourth World Eye, one of the friends and allies listed in the IC sidebar, I do cover the world indigenous peoples movement on all continents. That includes indigenous nations as varied as the San of Botswana and the Saami of Sweden.

    As a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal, I have had the opportunity to support indigenous activist scholars, including some from European stateless nations like Catalunya, Euskal Herria, Kernow and Bretagne--the latter two, incidentally, being Celtic.

    Given the history of European colonialism, and the current efforts through the UN to redress the grievances of indigenous peoples devastated by that aggression, it is not surprising that properties and privileges once thought legitimate by inheritors of that legacy are contested.


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