On February 4th, the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) will be reintroduced to the House and Senate in a push to make issues of physical and emotional abuse against women a diplomatic priority for the first time in U.S. history.
According to the Act, sponsored by Senators Joe Biden (D-DE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), one out of every three women world-wide will be physically or sexually abused in their lifetime, and those rates reach up to 70% of women in some parts of the world.
The IVAWA would create the Office of Global Women’s Initiative in the State Department, and would authorize over $1 billion over the next 5 years in U.S. assistance to support international programs that address violence against women that is otherwise overlooked.
The Act also puts emphasis on establishing legal and judicial protection to prevent and respond to violence against women, which includes helping women understand how to access help through the legal process.
Among other things, the IVAWA would require that the U.S. take action against gender-based violence during times of armed conflict, such as the mass rapes that have occurd in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since the early 90’s.
Womenthrive.org is championing a nation-wide campaign to raise awareness about the Act, and has included some fast facts on their website to show just how much of an impact this new measure could have globally.
Violence prevents women from:
- Working: Violence reduces a woman’s ability to work and provide for her family. In India, for example, a survey revealed that women who experienced even a single incident of violence lost an average of seven working days.
- Staying at Work: In Kenya, 95 percent of the women who had experienced sexual abuse in their workplace were afraid to report the problem for fear of losing their jobs.
- Getting an Education: Research shows that violence against women – including sexual assault, intimidation, and abuse – takes place in schools. Girls who are exposed to or experience violence are less likely to complete their education. A study in Nicaragua found that children of female victims of violence left school an average of four years earlier than other children.
- Building Strong Communities: Women who experience violence are less able to benefit from and contribute to healthy communities. (taken from www.womenthrive.org)
Womenthrive.org is making it easy for people everywhere to get involved in this issue by providing a form on their site that allows you to submit a letter to your local Representative or Senator, requesting that they co-sponsor the Act.
You can visit their website here: http://bit.ly/cdCFCl
Having travelled abroad, and seen first-hand the damaging effects that violence has against women in impoverished countries, this cause is very important to me.
I will never forget the day I saw down with a woman from the Khayelitsha township outside Capetown, South Africa, who was repeatedly raped by her husband after he contracted HIV from a different partner.
Too scared to leave, and too tired to take action, she cried with her newborn baby in her arms after finding out he was also infected with the disease. This is just one story out of millions that happen to women everyday in cities and villages across the globe, and to know that the U.S. is finally stepping up to address this crisis provides a glimmer of hope for women everywhere.