This is the part 2 of the paper presented by Vernie Yocogan-Diano, chairperson of Innabuyog, to the Asia Rural Women’s consultation, August 2007. — Ed
Disadvantaged status of indigenous women
As indigenous peoples, they often experience institutionalized discrimination and racism from the dominant culture as imposed by the states. As farmers or laborers, they often experience exploitation in the hands of landlords or employers. But the mere fact that they are women is an aggravating factor that increases the degree of oppression and exploitation they experience as indigenous people.
Indigenous women live within largely feudal-patriarchal societies which dictate that women are subordinate to men. Such culture of feudal-patriarchy view women as mere extension of their husband’s production and are not regarded as active forces of production. Indigenous women of Asia are usually considered inferior to males from birth. In such a culture, indigenous women are usually viewed as being there to bear children, to serve her father, her brothers and later her husband and her family, including her in-laws in many cases. In very specific cultures, indigenous women do not have property rights, or if they do, they cannot inherit these rights.
Again among indigenous peoples where feudal-patriarchal culture is strong, women are often excluded from roles of political leadership, both in traditional and state structures. Much less are they involved in actual decision-making which is usually done in structures or institutions dominated by men such as the traditional village council. Women are normally not allowed to hold positions of leadership at the village level. Even in matters of marriage and divorce, tribal customary laws are usually unfavorable to women.
Indigenous women and Imperialist Globalization
The unfettered forces of neo-liberal globalization at the turn of the 21st century, accompanied by the global war on terror, are violating the inherent rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. These conditions have allowed further development aggression and militarization in our ancestral lands, thus threatening our survival as distinct peoples.
The impositions of imperialist globalization are exacerbating the disadvantaged position of indigenous women. Impacts of globalization on indigenous women are profound and far-reaching, disrupting the important roles they play as productive forces in society, as child-bearers, as nurturers of the family, and as vital members of indigenous communities.
Imperialist globalization has accelerated the alienation, privatization, commercialization and theft of community forests, lands, waters and traditional medicinal plants causing impoverishment and generating ill health particularly for indigenous women and children. Indigenous women and children are being estranged from our lands, mountains, waters and forests which are sources of wisdom and means of survival. Our knowledge of biodiversity and natural resource management is systematically exploited, appropriated or eroded.
Piracy of indigenous crafts, arts and medicines is rampant and is facilitated by patents and other western intellectual property rights.
Current forms of tourism make indigenous women objects of curiosity, display and commercialization. Prostitution and sex trafficking has increased alongside the inducement to commercialize indigenous cultural heritages. Tourism is breeding cash dependence, especially on our children.
The loss of lands, waters and forests is deepening the poverty of indigenous women while increasing their domestic work loads and subsistence responsibilities.
We now have to work harder and longer to feed and nurture our families. Loss of livelihood and employment of indigenous women makes them less powerful economically and this condition erodes their influence and participation in decision-making.
Rural poverty which is getting more intense among indigenous peoples in Asia is accelerating migration to urban centers and even overseas. It is also increasing the vulnerability of indigenous women to different forms of violence including sexual, domestic and work-related. Uprooted from the communities, indigenous women who migrate lose the protection afforded by customary laws on women.
Corporate mining has resulted in the displacement of indigenous communities as well as in soil erosion and contamination, water and air pollution, serious health problems, impoverishment and social conflict.
Recent climatic change in Mongolia have devastated nomadic livestock herding thus deepening rural poverty and lack of access to basic social services.
Commercial logging, mono-culture plantations and agribusiness ventures are depriving indigenous peoples of lands and livelihoods and seriously eroding our rights.
National parks and protected areas have displaced indigenous communities of forest lands and resources.
Large dams have serious impacts on the lives, livelihoods, cultures and spiritual existence of indigenous and tribal peoples who have suffered disproportionately from their negative impacts, while often being excluded from sharing in any benefits. In the Philippines, almost all the larger dams built or proposed are on the lands of indigenous peoples. In India, 40-50 percent of those displaced by development projects were tribal peoples.
The cash economy has eroded indigenous women’s interdependence as self-reliant food producers, healers, artisans and spiritualists, transforming us into vulnerable lowly paid workers, urban poor and tourist attractions in the market economy. The continued survival of traditional livelihoods and cultures is under threat with the rapid transformation to market and urban-western lifestyles.
A particular issue faced by hill tribe women in Thailand is the non-recognition of their existence by the Thai government until they are properly registered and possess the proper identification card as citizens of Thailand. Regulation of the citizenship process is integrally linked to the system of patriarchy and hierarchy present within political and social structures. Domination and subjugation of women is achieved by creating a cumbersome application process which only serves to keep women in a position of little or no power (Anchalee Phonkling, 2002).
Continued next week