Amnesty International USA Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Amnesty International Welcomes House Stimulus Funding for Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service; Urges Senate to Follow Suit
Funds "Critical for Improving the Failing Systems," Organization Says, Emphasizing Support for Survivors of Sexual Violence
(Washington DC) - Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) today applauded a landmark portion of the House economic stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which funds critical functions of both the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Indian Health Service (IHS).
The human rights organization called these funds a crucial building block that could eventually help address alarmingly high levels of violent crime in Indian Country including the widespread sexual violence against Native American and Alaska Native women.
The Senate Appropriations Committee also reported out its version of the legislation yesterday, with funding in the amount of $545 million for IHS and $572 million for BIA. The organization applauded the addition of this critical funding and urged the full Senate to support current funding levels in the final legislation.
"Over the past year Congress has made an unprecedented effort to address violent crime affecting tribal communities across the United States," said Larry Cox, executive director of AIUSA. "These funds are critical for improving the failing systems that facilitate high levels of rape of Native women. Chronic underfunding of law enforcement agencies and
health service providers has had a significant impact on the ability of the BIA and IHS to respond to crimes of sexual violence. The House must be applauded for taking this long-overdue step."
The House economic stimulus package includes a substantial $550 million of federal funding to the IHS. These funds are to modernize aging hospitals and health clinics, purchase equipment and related services and make technology upgrades to improve healthcare for underserved rural populations. Currently the average per capita health expenditure for
Native Americans is less than half that for non-Natives in the United States. Since the launch of its 2007 report, Maze of Injustice: the failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA, AIUSA has advocated extensively for funds to improve health care and law enforcement in Indian Country, and will continue to do so in 2009.
Funding for the BIA has been set at $500 million, which would address repair and replacement of detention centers, schools, roads, dams, bridges and employee housing. While upgrading detention centers would have an obvious impact for law enforcement officials, repairing roads could also improve officers' access to rural communities.
"The BIA and IHS should work with tribal communities to ensure that part of this funding is used to train law enforcement officers to respond quickly and appropriately to victims of sexual violence," said Renata Rend, government relations director for AIUSA. "In addition, Indian Health Service facilities need trained sexual assault nurse examiners to
administer rape kits and secure evidence needed for prosecution. This is the only way to end the brutal cycle of impunity that allows crimes of sexual violence to flourish."
Amnesty International found Native American and Alaska Native women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the United States in general and more than one in three Native women will be raped in their lifetimes, yet the United States government has created a complex maze of tribal, state and federal jurisdictions that often allows perpetrators to rape with impunity -- and in some cases effectively
creates jurisdictional vacuums that encourage assaults.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries who campaign for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
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