Augustina Chakma’s statement at UNPFII on Item 5(d)

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Hill Voice, 23 April 2024, International Desk: Representative of CHT* Indigenous Peoples’ Council of Canada, Augustina Chakma delivered speech at 23rd session of the United National Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPDII) on “Item 5(d): Human rights dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; annual review of progress on the implementation of general recommendation No. 39” on Monday (22 April).

Augustina Chakma, in her statement, said that it pains me deeply to speak on behalf of the indigenous women and girls in the Chittagong Hill Tracts known as CHT who continue to suffer injustices and violence in Bangladesh. Despite the promises made by the government and the international community, the situation remains dire for these vulnerable members of our society.

They endure targeted violence by settlers, with many cases reported in 2023 alone. Unfortunately, justice is often denied to these victims due to their indigenous status.

In April 2024, 54 innocent Bawm Indigenous individuals, including pregnant women, were unjustly arrested by the military. Similarly, in March 2024, six indigenous Mro women and girls were brutally assaulted by a settler, with authorities failing to act and pursue the case.

On June 29, 2023, a 35-year-old Jumma woman was raped by two Bengali settlers during an Eid celebration, while another woman faced the same fate on October 29, 2023.

In the realm of politics, the absence of indigenous women in decision-making positions leave them voiceless and marginalized in their own land.

These incidents highlight the urgent need to protect the rights of our indigenous women and girls in Bangladesh.

Therefore, I implore the Bangladesh government and the international community to heed the following recommendations:

1. Uphold General Recommendation No. 39 and ensure the rights and well-being of indigenous women and girls in the CHT.

2. Being consistent in the inclusion of monitoring and reporting on human rights violations against indigenous women.

3. Exert international pressure on the Bangladesh government to fulfill its obligations.

4. Facilitate meaningful policy dialogues and consultations with indigenous communities

5. Advocate for regular visits, such as every two years, by the UN Special Rapporteur to assess the situation on the ground and advocate for the rights of indigenous women.

6. Demand rigorous scrutiny of the military’s human rights record before deploying them to UN peacekeeping missions, given Bangladesh’s significant contributions.

How can we, with integrity, send more Bangladeshi troops as UN peacekeepers abroad, symbolizing hope and stability, while turning a blind eye to the injustices inflicted upon our own women at home by the very forces the UN deploys?

General Recommendation No. 39 serves as a beacon of hope for indigenous women, yet their rights are routinely violated, and their voices silenced. Imagine the fear and despair felt by indigenous mothers as they watch their homes burn, their daughters attacked, and their communities torn apart by conflict.

In closing, Augustina Chakma said, we must demand answers, accountability, and action. Our women deserve peace—both at home and abroad.