Public health researchers in Venezuela have argued that cholera is a disease of poverty; yet in making this assumption, they fail to acknowledge the social, historical, and economic circumstances that have contributed to this epidemic in Venezuela. Cultural analysis and exoticization have allowed government officials to assume that cholera is merely an indigenous problem. “Indigena” are frequently stigmatized, and it is assumed that “‘Warao customs’ were responsible for the high rates of morbidity and mortality” during the cholera epidemic (Briggs, 674). Briggs’ article addresses one particular instance of stigmatization against indigenous women in Venezuela who are subordinated and made particularly vulnerable because of their low social standing. And what makes this an even greater issue is that these women lack necessary legal protection.
Violence against indigenous women is not limited to Venezuela. Just this past year, a report was released by Amnesty International, detailing discrimination and violence against indigenous women in Canada. While reading through the report, I found several shocking facts, such as:
- “According to a Canadian government statistic, young Indigenous women are five times more likely than other women of the same age to die as the result of violence.”
- “Racist and sexist stereotypes deny the dignity and worth of Indigenous women, encouraging some men to feel they can get away with acts of hatred against them.”
It is unjust that the Canadian government has failed to take a greater initiative in addressing this problem against aboriginal women. In a collective plan of action constructed by multiple advocates, it was demanded that the Canadian government further understand the root problem of the issue–one that is probably linked to the economic gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people. These disparities have resulted in greater violence against marginalized populations, very similar to the racialization of the cholera epidemic in Venezuela.
Vol. 43, No. 4 (Oct., 2001), pp. 665-700