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UN Envoy Reviews Violence Against Women in US

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Cindy Saine

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Rashida Manjoo, has concluded a fact-finding mission to the United States.  At a news conference in Washington Monday, Manjoo said Native American, immigrant and African-American women face especially high rates of violence across the United States.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women traveled to North Carolina, Florida, California, Minnesota and New York City, where she met with government authorities at the federal and state levels, and visited battered women's shelters and detention centers.  Rashida Manjoo stressed that worldwide, violence against women is the most pervasive human rights violation, and that it continues to challenge every country in the world.  She explained the focus of her visit to the United States.

"My visit focused on violence against women in a broad context, including issues such as custodial violence, domestic violence, violence against women in the military, and violence against women who face multiple, intersecting forms of discrimination, particularly Native American women, immigrant women and African-American women," she said.

Manjoo said she learned during her visit that Native American women face greater rates of domestic violence and sexual assault than any other group in the United States.  According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, one in three Native American women will be raped at some point in her life, and three in five will be physically assaulted.  

She said the underlying causes of this violence include the economic realities faced by Native American communities and historical discrimination.  She said between 60 and 80 percent of violent acts against Native American women are perpetrated by non-Native Americans.  She said the restrictions imposed on Indian nations to investigate and prosecute violent crimes within their territory means women must rely on the federal and state governments to prosecute the crimes.

Manjoo also met with incarcerated women, and said that overcrowding in prisons and a lack of health and mental health services are problems in many state and county facilities, and that federal prison facilities are better.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women thanked the U.S. government and state officials for their cooperation and openness during her visit, saying she was granted much more access to speak to women across the country in private settings than her predecessor, who visited in 1998.

Manjoo also praised the United States for passing the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 and re-authorizing it several times, calling it a landmark piece of legislation that expands funding to groups helping the victims of domestic violence.  The law is up for re-authorization in Congress this year, at a time when Republicans in the House of Representatives are eager to cut government spending to reduce the national debt.

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