Why it is important to protect the rights of indigenous people

By: SHIVANI MISRA


posted on: January 26th, 2017

Indigenous people are the native people in a territory. They have historical and cultural ties with the land in which they live. Indigenous people maintain traditions that have been followed for generations. They have survived through invasion and colonization while still maintaining their values. They have a distinct culture, social institutions and religions. Indigenous people are recognized by the United Nations. The United Nations has a Working Group that works on finding ways to integrate indigenous people into society.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE ARE OFTEN SUBJECT TO MARGINALIZATION

Indigenous people often face violence and are marginalized from society. There are a lot of reported instances of violence on the indigenous peoples. For example, in southern Africa the children of the San Ovahimba people and other Indigenous Peoples find it very hard to access education. Some of the worst cases of violence have been seen against the Pygmies of Central Africa. They are hunted from their habitat and eaten. This cruel act disregards all dignity and treats human beings as animals. Forced labour is still prevalent when the indigenous people try to take part in mainstream society.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE STILL FACE MANY ISSUES IN TODAY’S WORLD

According to the African Commission on Human and People’s rights the following are some of the issues faced by these groups:

  1. Their culture is threatened
  2. They face discrimination as they cannot adapt to the modern way of life
  3. They live in geographically isolated places and do not have access to amenities
  4. Their interests are not included in the national policies

Social integration is very important. The indigenous people have interests in the land they live in. They usually engage in farming and hunting-gathering activities. Often decisions on the land are taken without the consent of the people. The people are not provided with alternatives and often just financial compensation for the emotional, geographic and cultural losses suffered by them.

HOW CULTURE CAN BE PRESERVED

In many parts of Africa, the situation is changing. For example, in East Africa, the indigenous populations have gotten together with the civil society and are directly participating in policy decisions that affect them. In Kenya, the Pastoralist Development Network of Kenya and in Tanzania, the Tanzania Pastoralist and Hunter Gatherer Organization have grown in strength to voice policy concerns of indigenous people. This level of integration into society is significantly less in West Africa.

GIVING RIGHTS TO INDIGENOUS PEOPLE IS NOT ABOUT SPECIAL RIGHTS

It is often suggested that giving rights to indigenous people in some ways is giving them special rights. However, this is not the case. Indigenous people are discriminated based on their ethnicity and by giving them rights, the state recognizes their importance in society.

Under the African Charter of Human Rights, all people have a right to culture and identity. This is a very unique right that shows the importance of collective identity in African society. Indigenous people have a distinct cultural identity which has strong ties with nature. Their practices are in a way practices that preserve nature.

They must be included in society and dialogue can help include them into society. This will ensure that they have rights under the law and that they are free from discrimination.

WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT AND THAT NEEDS TO BE CHERISHED

We live in a multicultural world. Africa is culturally the most diverse continent in the world. Every tribe has a different tradition and this diversity is a matter of pride. We must remember that the bonds that unite us are stronger than the walls that divide us. We must celebrate the diversity around us. It is this diversity that makes us unique and makes our world so much richer.

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