Indigenous women, girls suffer ‘excessive discrimination’ – CHR

Published July 7, 2021, 4:27 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki


Indigenous women and girls suffer excessive discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic status, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said.

Thus, they are the most vulnerable members within indigenous communities due to their high levels of poverty, low levels of education, illiteracy, as well as limited access to health and basic sanitation, the CHR said.

Its pronouncements were contained in its written statement for the “Virtual Day of General Discussion on the Rights of Indigenous Women and Girls” held last June 24 but was released only on Wednesday, July 7.

“The Commission, as Gender and Development Ombud under the Magna Carta of Women, recognizes issues faced by indigenous peoples, especially those experienced by women and girls, and affirms its role to uphold and protect their rights,” it declared.

It said it regularly participates in the sectoral monitoring and forwarding of policy recommendations to key government agencies in its efforts to help address the problems of indigenous women and children.

It pointed out that when it conducted a National Inquiry on Reproductive Health (RH) and Rights of Women in 2016, it identified the “barriers” experienced by indigenous women and girls in accessing reproductive health and rights.

“The inquiry particularly documented how women in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas are often unable to access RH information, commodities, and services,” it said.

It noted that indigenous women who were interviewed revealed that there were maternal deaths during transit, mainly because of the distance of health facilities from their location.

They also shared stories of discriminatory practices of health care workers such as degrading treatment and verbal abuse, the CHR said.

In its 2018 sectoral monitoring, the CHR said it discovered other issues faced by indigenous women — housing (landlessness and displacement), access to food, education, work-related issues, social security, and cultural rights, among other things.

When the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic hit the country, it said that the issues faced by the marginalized members of society became even more exacerbated especially since they are already struggling to have decent access to health and government services.

At times when they do receive access, they are sadly confronted with stigma and discrimination, it lamented.

“The situation of indigenous women is even graver. Indigenous women are overly-represented in vulnerable and underpaid sectors, they are likely to be the caretakers of children, elderly parents, the ill, extended family members, and are often burdened with issues of food security,” it noted.

Citing an example, the CHR said that Mangyan indigenous peoples and communities living in barangays around Occidental Mindoro even reported there was a lack of food provisions because of government-imposed restrictions.

“The crops of indigenous farmers are left to rot because they are unable to transport them while under rigid mobility restrictions, inflicting even more losses on their end,” it said.