The U.N. Is Moving To Make Cultural Appropriation Not Just Offensive, But Illegal

United Nations delegates are finally addressing an issue that has been pushed by indigenous groups since 2001: cultural appropriation.

189 countries are currently in Geneva as part of a specialized international committee convening with the World Intellectual Property Organization about how best to address the issue, CBA News reports. There are three possible international laws that committee members are addressing that would protect indigenous property of any form, including language and clothing, if enacted.

The committee has been working on three draft documents for 16 years, so it’s a frustrating and disenchanting process.

These laws are long overdue. Designers and celebrities frequently borrow from Indigenous Peoples’ cultures, using headdresses in Fashion Week shows, selling trendy Navajo merchandise (this side eye goes to Urban Outfitters) and exploiting a culture that is not theirs to take.

“We are only halfway through 2017 and yet the number of occurrences of misappropriation happening to Indigenous Peoples in all regions of the world seems relentless with no relief in sight,” Aroha Te Pareake Mead (a member of the Ngati Awa and Ngati Porou tribes) told CBA.

Hopefully this committee will honor the requests at hand and pass the laws necessary to prevent future appropriation from taking place — at the very least from large retailers and media organizations. Ignorance is not an excuse.


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