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UN representative discusses domestic abuse in Cherokee

Cherokee got a special visit last month from Rashida Manjoo, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, as part of a fact-finding trip around the United States.

Making her stop at the special request of several tribal council members, Manjoo was welcomed by the chief and Tribal Council before touring the reservation and meeting with survivors of violence.

Manjoo visited the tribe as part of her mandate from the UN High Council on Human Rights. She looked specifically at the high rates of violence against women that occur within native American communities and talked to local women’s organizations as well as law enforcement and tribal officials about why such crimes are more likely there than within the general populace.

One problem facing tribal nations around the country is the matter of jurisdiction – tribal courts have no jurisdiction over non-Indian American citizens. And while such criminals can be tried in federal courts, some slip through the cracks.

For those that are pursued in tribal courts, the maximum sentencing limits – three years at most for certain multiple-charge crimes – pale in comparison to the much longer maximums available in state courts.

Manjoo addressed this problem during her visit and said that she hoped to include possible solutions in her final report, due to be given in Washington, D.C. this week.

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“Jurisdictional issues are one aspect of the challenges that you face in terms of accountability and impunity, but I’m sure there are many other challenges and opportunities that we will be exposed to,” said Manjoo, in an address to Tribal Council.

She applauded the council and others working on the reservation with victims of violence for their efforts to hold the Eastern Band to the standards of international law when it comes to due diligence and prosecution. She said, however, that the effort must be deeper than just dealing with the after-effects or working with tribal women on prevention. To really eradicate violence against women, said Manjoo, girls must be protected and educated early on, and prevention – along with prosecution – should be a priority for both men and women.

“My mandate goes broader than women, and the goal of elimination of violence against women is a goal that I think all of us subscribe to, and eventually we will not require a position of this nature in the UN system,” said Manjoo.”

Manjoo is the third special rapportuer to occupy her position, and the findings from her two-week tour – which also included stops in Florida, California, Minnesota and New York – will be presented in full at the next meeting of the Council on Human Rights in Geneva later this year.

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