Coalition Hails Progress on Int'l Violence Against Women Act
WASHINGTON – Leading domestic and international women’s, violence prevention, human rights and development organizations lauded the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for marking up the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) – bipartisan legislation that would, for the first time, make stopping violence against women and girls a priority in United States diplomacy and foreign aid. Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are leading the effort to pass the legislation in the Senate, and Representatives Bill Delahunt (D-MA), Ted Poe (R-TX) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) are championing it in the House of Representatives.
The United Nations estimates that one out of every three women worldwide will be physically, sexually or otherwise abused in her lifetime. I-VAWA would help end violence through prevention programs that help women and girls get an education or improve their economic opportunities; programs that support men and boys in being partners in ending violence; health and support programs for survivors; and legal and judicial training programs that work to hold abusers accountable. It would fund local community-based organizations that are working to end violence in their own countries. It would make the issue a diplomatic priority by requiring a U.S. response to outbreaks of gender-based violence – like mass rapes in the Congo – within six months.
“Recent reports of sexual abuse of women in resettlement camps in Haiti, and rape used as a weapon of war in the Congo, are chilling reminders of what is at stake,” said Family Violence Prevention Fund President and Founder Esta Soler. “This violence includes women being beaten by husbands and boyfriends, schoolgirls being burned with acid, refugees being forced to trade sex for food, and more. It worsens after wars, conflicts and natural disasters, and complicates efforts to recover and rebuild. To date, the U.S. response has been grossly inadequate. I-VAWA can change that. This is our best chance in years to pass this bill. The House must act quickly so we can get it done this year.”
“Violence against women and girls is a global epidemic,” said Ritu Sharma, Co-Founder and President of Women Thrive Worldwide. “Right now, we have a real opportunity to do something about this appalling problem which is a horrendous violation of women’s human rights. Violence affects all aspects of women’s lives, from their personal health and safety to their ability to earn a living and care for their families. By passing I-VAWA this year, Congress can show that the U.S. is fully prepared to invest in a safer future for women, which is the best way to ensure safety and security for all.”
“The International Violence Against Women Act takes a comprehensive, coordinated approach to preventing human rights violations against women and girls worldwide,” added Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “It is something we have been lacking until now. This bill can finally change that. We are grateful to every Senator and every Representative who is sponsoring and supporting this historic legislation. We will continue working until I-VAWA is the law of the land, and we are very hopeful that today’s mark-up will give it enough momentum for that to happen this year.”
I-VAWA has broad public support. Public opinion research conducted for the Family Violence Prevention Fund and Women Thrive Worldwide by Lake Research Partners last year found that the majority of voters (61 percent) say addressing global violence against women should be one of the top priorities for the U.S. government. Voters across demographic and party lines strongly support the legislation. Eight in ten (82 percent) support the bill, and six in ten (62 percent) express intense support. I-VAWA maintains salience with voters when compared to other foreign policy priorities like promoting democracy and trade, fighting corruption abroad, and reconstructing Iraq and Afghanistan.