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CEDAW recommendation in indigenous languages

01 November, 2023 | Ricardo Changala

With the support of the RINDHCA (Network of National Human Rights Institutions), of which the Office of the Ombudsman of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, the Office of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Paraguay and the Office of the Ombudsman of Mexico are members, General Recommendation No. 39 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the rights of Indigenous women and girls[1] has so far been translated into the Aymara, Nahuatl, Guarani and Trinidadian Moxeno languages.

These versions can be seen in the following place: https://www.ohchr.org/en/documents/general-comments-and-recommendations/general-recommendation-no39-2022-rights-indigeneous

The fact is doubly relevant. On the one hand, due to the great importance of this recommendation, the first one dedicated specifically to indigenous women and girls. According to the CEDAW Committee itself, there are about 476.6 million indigenous people registered in the world, of whom more than half (238.4 million) are women. For them, discrimination and violence are recurrent phenomena both inside and outside indigenous territories, both in urban and rural areas.

The document provides guidance to States on relevant legislative, policy and other measures to ensure compliance with their obligations regarding the rights of Indigenous women and girls under the CEDAW Convention.

It is pointed out that one of the fundamental causes of discrimination against indigenous women and girls is the lack of effective implementation of their rights to self-determination and autonomy and related guarantees, which is manifested, inter alia, in the continuous dispossession of their lands, territories and natural resources.

States parties should consider the intersectional discrimination experienced by Indigenous women and girls on the basis of factors such as sex, gender, Indigenous origin, status or identity, race, ethnic origin, disability, age, language, socio-economic situation, among other aspects.

In its collective dimension, discrimination, along with gender-based violence, against Indigenous women and girls threatens and disrupts their spiritual life, their connection with Mother Earth, the integrity and survival of the culture and the social fabric of Indigenous communities and Peoples.

Gender-based discrimination and violence have a detrimental effect on the continuity and preservation of Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge, cultures, points of view, identities and traditions. The lack of protection of the rights to self-determination, collective security of tenure of ancestral lands and resources and the effective participation and consent of Indigenous women in all matters affecting them constitutes discrimination against them and their communities.

The Committee recognizes that the vital link between Indigenous women and their lands often forms the basis of their culture, identity, spirituality, ancestral knowledge and survival.

Therefore, the Recommendation requests States to guarantee the individual and collective rights of Indigenous women and girls to maintain their culture, identity and traditions, and to choose their own path and their own life plans.

But in addition, the translation of the Recommendation into some indigenous languages is a precedent that should be followed by other similar actions, both by expanding the list of languages for this document, and in the list of United Nations texts that should be published in indigenous languages.

Within the framework of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, such an initiative that could disseminate relevant material for the promotion and protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples in their own languages would be not only useful but a positive sign towards the construction of intercultural societies.

[1] Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation No. 39 (2022) on the rights of Indigenous women and girls, CEDAW/C/GC/39, October 31, 2022.