This week, in honor of International Women’s Day, Amnesty International is urging people to call their Senators to co-sponsor the Tribal Law and Order Act to help protect Native American and Alaska Native women from sexual violence in the U.S.
Amnesty International issued their report, Maze of Injustice – the Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA nearly two years ago.
According to Amnesty’s press release at the time: “Justice Department figures indicate that American Indian and Alaska Native women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the United States in general; more than one in three Native women will be raped in their lifetimes.” AI also reported in their summary that these rapes are often brutal and, also according to the Justice Department, “in at least 86 per cent of the reported cases of rape or sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, survivors report that the perpetrators are non-Native men.”
A maze of jurisdictions and the lack of ability to hold the perpetrator accountable especially if he’s a non-native on native land are major issues, in addition to lack of funding for police and health services on native lands.
The Federal Government has also undermined the authority of tribal governments to respond to crimes committed on tribal land. Women who come forward to report sexual violence are caught in a jurisdictional maze that federal, state and tribal police often cannot quickly sort out. Three justice systems — tribal, state and federal — are potentially involved in responding to sexual violence against Indigenous women. Three main factors determine which of these justice systems has authority to prosecute such crimes:
– whether the victim is a member of a federally recognized tribe or not;
– whether the accused is a member of a federally recognized tribe or not; and
– whether the offence took place on tribal land or not.
That’s a lot to have to navigate through when you’ve just been the victim of a violent and traumatic act. It gets worse though.
Tribal prosecutors cannot prosecute crimes committed by non-Native perpetrators. Tribal courts are also prohibited from passing custodial sentences that are in keeping with the seriousness of the crimes of rape or other forms of sexual violence. The maximum prison sentence tribal courts can impose for crimes, including rape, is one year. At the same time, the majority of rape cases on tribal lands that are referred to the federal courts are reportedly never brought to trial.
Amnesty International wants you to call in to your Senators this week, asking them to co-sponsor the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009 to improve prosecution and response to violent crimes against Native American and Native Alaskan Women.
For information on calling your Senators, including a sample call script and fact sheets go to:
Stop Violence Against Native American Women. End impunity.