Violence Against Native Women in “Post-Colonization” America

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This Thanksgiving, while you’re enjoying your meal with your families, I challenge you to educate yourselves on a group of people that have been marginalized since the formation of our country. As Georgetown students, as men and women for others, we should be educated on this issue. As feminism is promoting intersectionality and bringing marginalized groups to the center, one in particular has been consistently left behind and consequently continues to be the perpetual “other”. This marginalized group is Native Americans and in this posting I will discuss the shocking amount of violence Native American and Alaskan Native women experience.

Since the beginning of colonization in America, Native Women have experienced extreme sexual violence, abuse, and human rights violations from settlers and soldiers. These violations didn’t end with the conquest and colonization of America but continued with the Trail of Tears. They continue today. Due to the widespread human rights violations that Indigenous women have experienced, this normalized pattern of oppression has made it easier for violations similar to these to continue.

Indigenous women are 2.5 more times more likely to be raped or experience sexual violence than other women in America (“Maze of Injustice”). According to National Congress of American Indian, 3 out of 5 Native Women will be assaulted in their lifetimes.  Additionally, in 86% of these cases, the perpetrators aren’t Native men (“Maze of Injustice”). The notion that the Native men are perpetrating the violence on the Native women is not accurate. Non-native men go to the reservations and thus commit these crimes on Native women. Previous to the expansion of the Violence Against Women Act this past summer, non-Native men could come onto the reservations, rape Native women, and virtually nothing would be done about it. The fact that these crimes were viewed as “inter-racial,” meaning the perpetrators were non-Native and the women were Native, prohibited these cases from going to the tribal courts. It was not the tribe’s jurisdiction and it would go to the federal courts, which are at minimum 300 miles away from the reservations, meaning that there was no justice for these cases. There were no consequences for these acts of violence; men could go to these reservations and would do whatever the hell they wanted with the knowledge that nothing would be done about it. Native women deserve justice, yet they haven’t received any. Native women aren’t sexual objects, even though the world likes to portray them as such. People like to think that we are in a post-colonization era and that most of the issues experienced in the past are gone but things have just evolved. Predominately white men are still the perpetrators of this violence against Native women just like that of the time of Christopher Colombus.

This past year, an expansion to the Violence Against Women Act was created so that tribal courts could have jurisdiction over these acts of violence. This is a huge step to ensuring the protection of Native women and as of April 6th 2015 26 offenders were charged. There is progress, however America needs to realize that Native Americans, especially Native women are real people and are more than sexual objects that the Western World has fetishized. As feminism and global issues have focused on the acts of violence on other minority and oppressed groups, it is our duty to bring this widespread form of oppression to the light so we can begin to work towards justice.

 

Sources

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/06/vawa-native-americans_n_6819526.html

http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/women-s-rights/violence-against-women/maze-of-injustice

http://www.justice.gov/ovw/tribal-communities

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/us/native-americans-struggle-with-high-rate-of-rape.html?_r=0

 

Gaby Walker is Cherokee Native American and a junior at Georgetown University majoring in Women and Gender Studies. She is treasurer of the Native American Student Council.

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The Disconnect Between the Reproductive Justice and LGBTQ Movements

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During OUTober, I am often reminded of the chasm that exists between the LGBTQ spaces and pro-choice spaces on campus. If I had a nickel for every time someone — specifically white, cis, gay men — questioned my participation in H*yas for Choice because I’m a gay woman, I’d have 10 cents and zero f*cking patience left. It is extremely unfortunate for me to see a blatant disconnect between the LGBTQ movement and the reproductive justice movement, both on this campus and in the greater public discourse in this country. I attribute this distance to a misunderstanding of what reproductive justice means and the way it affects Georgetown and society as a whole.

For me, reproductive justice is affirming everyone’s right to choose when, how, and if they want to exercise their ability to reproduce.

When: This includes protecting access to contraceptives for men, women, and those who do not conform to the gender binary so that they can be in control of their reproductive destinies. Male condoms, female condoms, IUDs, the pill, hormonal implants — you name it, they all need to be available to students regardless of their socioeconomic background or the religious affiliation of the school they attend. Access to contraception and other methods of protection (e.g. dental dams) that prevent the spread of HIV and other STIs is immensely important for both the LGBTQ community as well as proponents of reproductive justice.

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How: This is where I believe we need to expand our understanding of reproductive justice. How people choose to reproduce (if they choose to reproduce in the first place, which we’ll cover later) should be dependent on their own decisions and that of their partner, if they have one. Fighting for reproductive justice means denouncing the coercive sterilization of women in prison, just as much as it means fighting for the right of any couple, or individual, to use in vitro fertilization to conceive a child. When we prevent certain members of society from reproducing based on racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, sexism, biphobia, and other kinds of prejudice, we rob them of their reproductive rights. Both the LGBTQ movement and the reproductive justice movement ought to work together to uphold the right of individuals to reproduce however they choose.

Another aspect of the “how” of reproductive justice is consent. An individual’s sexual agency must not be violated, regardless of whether their perpetrator is their partner. I am glad to see that there have been increased discussions on campus regarding intimate partner violence in the LGBTQ community and hope to see this expanded further in the future. These conversations are especially critical considering that bisexual women endure the highest levels of sexual violence, the stigma surrounding sexual violence, and the demasculinization that male survivors may endure. Rape and sexual violence, especially when committed against people who are able to get pregnant, violate a survivor’s reproductive rights since the victim cannot decide to participate in an act that might lead to conception.

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If: Not all women want to have children! Not everyone who is married wants to have children! Not everyone in a relationship wants to get married! Not everyone wants to be in a romantic relationship! Not everyone wants to have sex! Both movements respect the right of the individual to live out their identity free from pressure to conform to societal expectations of masculinity, femininity, relationships, and parenthood — so, why not engage in more conversations about this intersection on campus!?

Unfortunately, there are shortcomings that both the LGBTQ and repro movements share, but they can be conquered together. Racism, notably in the form of historical erasure that obscures the impact people of color have had on both movements, has led to the persistent marginalization of people of color. We need to celebrate the contributions that people of color have made to both movements and ensure we are being inclusive, especially with our language. The creation of the Queer Men of Color discussion group as well as the GU Queer People of Color organization are important advancements, but more needs to be done by existing LGBTQ and pro-choice spaces on campus. Additionally, as the LGB(T!)Q movement is evolving to address the particular issues trans people face, so must the repro justice movement, including dialogue addressing abortion access and “women’s” health care; once again, language is vital to create safe, inclusive spaces.

The LGBTQ and reproductive justice movements are certainly not mutually exclusive. This is made clear by the many students active in H*yas for Choice who are also part of the LGBTQ community — students like me. If the movements did not have overlapping initiatives, they would be horribly inept at creating a progressive environment where students can feel comfortable acting in ways that are consistent with their identities. More can be done to ensure both movements work in solidarity with each other, and I urge leaders on campus to help facilitate this change.

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Annie Mason (COL’ 18) is the Historian of H*yas for Choice.