August 5th, 2010

thinky tim

Tribal Law and Order Act

*sexual violence trigger warning*

This should really be getting more press than it is: President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act last week, which will increase the power and resources tribal authorities have to prosecute crimes, most notably by deputizing tribal police to arrest non-Natives who commit crimes on tribal land; and by requiring federal authorities to record crimes they decline to prosecute, and share that information with tribal authorities.

Think about the context of these changes. Previously, tribal courts have been limited in their power to prosecute non-Natives. That authority lay with the federal government. But "[f]ederal officials have declined to prosecute more than 50 percent of violent crimes in Indian country, and a higher rate of sexual assaults."

So, Native authorities can't prosecute non-Natives who commit crimes on tribal lands. But the U.S. government fails to prosecute those criminals at least half the time. What do you think the result of this set of circumstances is?

Just one example: Native women have a higher lifetime rate of rape or attempted rape than women of any other ethnic group. And while women of all other ethnic groups are more likely to be sexually assaulted by men within their own ethnic group, Native women are an exception: over 86% of sexual assaults reported by Native women are committed by non-Native men.

Through our government, the U.S. is saying to non-Native men, "Go ahead and rape these women. They can't punish you, and we won't bother to." And then they do.


(Apologies to those of you who already know this, and don't need to be reminded of it. I wanted to post it un-cut because of the lack of awareness in most circles, even feminist or anti-racist ones. I still remember when I learned about all this - it was not that long ago.)

Read more on the law:
[Committee on Indian Affairs]
[Ms. Magazine]

Read more on Native women and sexual violence:
[Amnesty International USA]
[Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network]

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