The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women must pay special attention to the vulnerable situation of indigenous women in the DRC
Fifteen organisations working with indigenous women, including Forest Peoples Programme, have joined forces to emphasise the injustice and multiple forms of discrimination suffered by indigenous women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (the Committee). States are required to submit reports to the Committee every four years, describing legislative, judicial, administrative or other measures they have adopted to implement the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (the Convention). The DRC’s report will be examined by the Committee on 11 July 2013 in the presence of a delegation of Congolese government representatives. The proceedings can be watched live online at: http://www.treatybodywebcast.org/.
The DRC’s periodic report fails to provide any information on the situation of indigenous women, despite the fact that these women face numerous forms of discrimination and live in conditions of extreme vulnerability. This gap has prompted 15 NGOs to join forces and write an Alternative Report in order to portray the situation of indigenous women in the DRC.
The report looks first at the situation of indigenous peoples in the DRC. It considers dispossession of their ancestral lands and the threat this poses to maintaining their cultures, ways of life and survival. Loss of ancestral lands has particularly devastating effects on indigenous women. One of the central roles of indigenous women is feeding and caring for their families. Yet they are deprived of the means to do so and are thus forced to live in very precarious conditions that leave them exposed to exploitation and violence.
The report also considers the discrimination suffered by indigenous women in the areas of education, health, participation in public and political life, and access to justice. The report emphasises that the DRC government is proving slow to adopt special measures aimed at instituting equality for indigenous women, and at ensuring that they can enjoy all their rights, without discrimination.
The report’s author organisations have proposed recommendations for the Committee to present to the DRC government which may help the DRC government have a more comprehensive understanding of the rights of indigenous women when creating laws, policies and programmes for the benefit of these women. The authors also stressed how important it would be for the Committee to adopt a holistic approach when examining the situation of indigenous women in the DRC and the violations to their rights under the Convention, and in its recommendations to the DRC government. This would allow the Committee to take into account the multiple forms of discrimination, and their cumulative impacts on indigenous women.
Two representatives from the DRC have travelled to Geneva to present the alternative report to the Committee, which is currently holding its 55th session. On July 8, 2013, Ms Musanga Timani Chimène, an indigenous woman from South Kivu, presented an oral statement to the Committee, insisting on the fact that the DRC government has failed, to this day, to adopt measures to protect the rights of indigenous women. The indigenous representatives will also have other opportunities to present their concerns to the Committee members whilst in Geneva.