Indigenous Women’s Rights and International Law: Challenges of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

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Are Indigenous women’s rights protected in international law? As Indigenous people, Indigenous women are ensured the rights enshrined most explicitly in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) (UN General Assembly 2007). The UNDRIP represents globally endorsed minimum standards and an important normative framework of the rights of Indigenous peoples founded on international human rights law. As women, Indigenous women are assured the rights contained most notably in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (the Women’s Convention) (1979). In spite of these two key international human rights instruments, however, Indigenous women’s rights remain an overlooked issue both at international and local levels. I begin the chapter with a consideration of the UNDRIP and the work of the Permanent

Forum on Indigenous Issues. Second, I examine feminist critiques of the human rights law and how these analyses may have relevance to advancing Indigenous women’s rights. Feminist legal scholars have argued that the international human rights framework has either neglected or failed women and their rights. I ask whether the Indigenous human rights discourse reproduces and perpetuates similar exclusions and hierarchies toward Indigenous women as international law is regarded to maintain toward women in general. In conclusion, I consider the Zapatista Women’s Revolutionary Law as an example of an explicit expression of Indigenous women’s rights developed by grassroots Indigenous women. I juxtapose it to the UNDRIP and ask how the Declaration would have been different had it taken the Revolutionary Law seriously and, therefore, contributed to a fuller and more effective recognition of Indigenous women’s rights in the international human rights discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Indigenous Peoples' Rights
EditorsCorinne Lennox, Damien Short
ISBN (Electronic)9781136313868
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoEC publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book

Field of science

  • Gender studies


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