Violence against women is an ongoing international problem. In some areas of the world, women are raped and then punished for the crime of adultery. In other regions, rape and other violence against women is used as a method of genocide. When women are robbed of their basic human rights, the consequences reverberate throughout all aspects of society. Gender-based violence destroys families, creates major health concerns, economic development issues, and has other negative impacts on the health of a community as a whole.
The World Health Organization reports that at least one out of every three women worldwide are assaulted, coerced into sex, or abused in another way during her lifetime. In some countries, abuse rates reach a staggering 70 percent. To address the crises of violence against women around the world, the United Nations has long advocated for a global agreement to protect women and girls. However, despite the passage of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1979, any such moratorium on gender-based violence struggles to be implemented.
In a bi-partisan effort, the U.S. Senate has introduced an unprecedented piece of legislation that would develop a comprehensive strategy for the U.S. government to focus attention on the issue and become a global leader in eradicating gender-based violence around the world. If it passes, the International Violence Against Women Act hopes to create a “new era of international cooperation to address violence against women, to create partnerships among governments, multilateral institutions, the private sector, civil society, and individuals.”
The I-VAWA, originally drafted in 2007, was introduced into Congress last year, but never came up to a vote before the Congress adjoined. The I-VAWA has been re-introduced in Congress this year and women’s rights advocates hope the bill will be voted on soon. The bill would make the protection of women and girls a top diplomatic priority for the U.S., who would support UNIFEM in their efforts to end violence against women. The strategy would include an increase in:
- Legal protection for women suffering abuse
- Health care capacity to include prevention, care, and treatment
- Economic opportunity and education
- Training for U.S. security forces abroad to deal with human rights violations suffered by women
The I-VAWA also recognizes the need for a shift in cultures that excuse violence against women as a social norm, including such abuses as dowry marriages, honor killings, rape, and domestic abuse. Ultimately, the I-VAWA calls for an international commitment to make the basic rights of women a top priority and back up that commitment with action.
The I-VAWA is supported by Amnesty International USA, along with Women Thrive Worldwide and the Family Violence Prevention Fund, all of whom have worked tirelessly to end violence against women in all corners of the globe.
You can be part of the global effort to end gender-based violence and secure the rights of women everywhere:
- Get educated. Learn what the I-VAWA means for the international community.
- I-VAWA is not yet on the books as an official law. Legislative support is crucial for its success—let your legislators know this bill is important to you! Contact your senators about endorsing this historical piece of legislation.
- Visit Amnesty International’s Violence Against Women Action Center to find out how you can get involved.
- Shop the cause by visiting Women Thrive Worldwide’s store supporting economic development for women living in poverty.
- Stay informed on Human Rights issues affecting women by joining the Women’s Human Rights Network.
Written by Sarah Nelson for Causecast.org