Violence exercised by non-state actors: Indigenous men and women are particularly vulnerable to violence by non-state actors, such as paramilitary forces and private armies associated with powerful economic interests and organized crime. Paramilitary forces are used to force indigenous peoples off land, in order to secure deniability and impunity. Physical violence and the violence of prevailing forms of economic development are inextricably linked. States are directly responsible for the lack of protection of indigenous women (and all citizens) against such violence. Colombia has the highest rate of internally displaced peoples in the Americas and one of the highest in the world. Since 1985, somewhere between three and four million of the country’s 40 million people have fled their homes and lost their livelihoods, family ties, and the social networks that engender security and stability. Indigenous peoples are vastly overrepresented amongst the internally displaced – together with Afro-Colombians they represent almost a third of all displaced peoples in the country, even though they constitute no more than three per cent of the Colombian population. For indigenous peoples, displacement means loss of territories, ritual practices and traditions that underpin their cultural identity. The violent displacement of indigenous peoples has accelerated significantly in Colombia during the last decade as extractive economic projects such as mining have been promoted in indigenous territories. Rape is a tactic commonly used by paramilitary groups against indigenous women in order to accelerate displacement. And internally displaced women are at far higher risk of being subject to rape and to being forced into prostitution (UNHCR 2009; Amnesty International 2004). Such paramilitary violence has also occurred in Mexico: the notorious case of the Acteal massacre in Chiapas in 1997 involved the murder of 45 tzotzil Indians belonging to the organization Las Abejas, including pregnant women and children, by a
CMI WORKING PAPER INDIGENOUS WOMEN’S ACCESS TO JUSTICE IN LATIN AMERICA WP 2010: 2 15 paramilitary group. The Mexican government alleged the killings were the result of an interethnic conflict, while human rights organizations maintained it was part of a government strategy to target the social bases of the Zapatista guerrilla movement (Hernández 1998). Some 26 indigenous men were imprisoned for the massacre, but in 2009 were released on appeal by the Mexican Supreme Court on the grounds that they had not been guaranteed due process in the original trial. Discrimination and racism Structural forms of discrimination against indigenous people, and particularly against indigenous women, are compounded within the official justice system by structural weaknesses and institutions deficiencies, and by the racist perceptions and discriminatory attitudes of many justice system officials.
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