Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today introduced the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), bipartisan legislation that would make reducing the levels of violence against women and girls across the globe a top diplomatic priority for the United States.
“The recent kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian school girls underscores the horrific violence that too many women and girls across the globe face every day,” Senator Boxer said. “The International Violence Against Women Act will make clear that ending discrimination and violence against women and girls is a top priority for the United States and central to our national security interests. The bill will ensure that the U.S. government has a comprehensive strategy in place to promote the rights and safety of women and girls around the world.” Senator Boxer chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues.
“Full empowerment of women has an enormous impact on economic growth, and ensures that prosperous nations are truly just and thrive. Too many countries fall far short of this requirement and exclude women from full participation in the work force, national governments, and village councils. And, in too many places, girls are prevented from attending school, and women and girls are attacked as a deliberate and coordinated strategy of armed conflict. Achieving stable, just and prosperous nations is only possible with the full participation of women. This legislation makes clear that combating violence against women and girls must be a top U.S. foreign policy priority which we are required to lead,” said Senator Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“This Act makes ending violence against women and girls a top diplomatic priority,” said Senator Collins. “The world has just seen an appalling example of women and girls being treated as property and political bargaining chips in Nigeria, where the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 school girls and is threatening to sell them into slavery and forced marriages. Sadly, this is not a viewpoint limited to terrorist leaders: the International Center for Research on Women says one in nine girls around the world is married before the age of 15, a harmful practice that deprives girls of their dignity and often their education, increases their health risks, and perpetuates poverty. The practice of preventing women from attaining their full potential by targeting them for violence and early marriage is still unacceptably common. The International Violence Against Women Act ensures that the U.S. will take a leadership role in combating these problems. I am committed to continue working with my colleagues to end violence against women and girls and to provide the assistance and resources necessary to achieve this goal.”
“One out of every three women worldwide will be physically or sexually assaulted in some form during their lifetime, and too often we hear of these heinous acts right here in our country and abroad,” said Senator Kirk. “Addressing and preventing global gender-based violence while promoting social and economic empowerment for women and girls is essential for communities to thrive and for the stability of our international community. Our nation must lead the way to ensure that women and girls all over the globe have the tools they need to reach their full potential, free of the threat of violence.”
“Violence facing women and young girls around the world is a challenge that we must address immediately and the recent kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian school girls underscores that point,” Senator Shaheen said. “Protecting women from violence around the world is also critical to our national security interests, and our bipartisan bill will make ending violence and discrimination against women the top diplomatic priority of ours that it deserves to be.”
The International Violence Against Women Act would:
• Require interagency coordination, monitoring and evaluation of programs and regular briefings to Congress.
• Codify in law the existing Office of Global Women’s Issues within the State Department and the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.
• Codify in law the existing Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
• Require the development and implementation of a 5-year U.S. global strategy to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. The strategy will identify five to 20 eligible low and middle income countries for which comprehensive individual country plans will be developed.
• Authorize U.S. assistance to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls internationally, with at least 10 percent of the assistance provided to nongovernmental organizations—with priority given to those led by women.
Nearly 300 humanitarian, faith-based, human rights, refugee and women’s organizations have voiced their support for the International Violence Against Women Act, including: Amnesty International USA, American Jewish World Service, CARE USA, the Episcopal Church, Futures Without Violence, Human Rights Watch, International Justice Mission, Jewish Women International, the International Center for Research on Women, the International Rescue Committee, Lutheran World Relief, MenEngage, the Presbyterian Church (USA), Refugees International, the National Council of Churches USA, Vital Voices Global Partnership, Women's Refugee Commission, and Women Thrive Worldwide.
The co-chairs of the Coalition to End Violence Against Women and Girls Globally made the following remarks:
“We commend Senators from both sides of the aisle for reintroducing the International Violence Against Women Act with bipartisan support,” said Esta Soler, Founder and President of Futures Without Violence. “Recent devastating events across the globe are a very timely reminder that violence against women and girls knows no boundaries. We must act quickly to prevent gross human rights violations – from early/forced marriage to domestic violence – and promote global stability and security.”
“Amnesty International USA is grateful that this life-changing legislation has been reintroduced in the Senate at a time when the world’s attention is turned on the successes – and challenges – of advancing the human rights of women and girls across the globe,” said Cristina Finch, managing director of Amnesty International USA’s identity and discrimination unit, which focuses on women’s human rights. “The abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria is yet another deeply disturbing example of the ways in which violence against girls and women affects every aspect of their lives. One in three women will experience violence in her lifetime, affecting her ability to access, among other rights, the right to education. Amnesty International is proud to join IVAWA’s sponsors in the Senate and House in their commitment to shining a light on this global scourge until every woman and girl can live a life free from violence.”
“The International Violence Against Women Act represents a huge step forward in the U.S. government’s commitment to ending violence against women and girls,” said Ritu Sharma, President and Co-founder of Women Thrive Worldwide. “This bill is about the schoolgirls who were abducted last month in Nigeria and are now being sold as wives. It’s about the Pakistani women who lost their lives last year when their university bus was bombed. It’s about every woman and girl who experiences sexual or physical violence. Now is the time for us all to stand up for them.”
“Violence against women and girls continues to occur around the world at epidemic proportions,” said Dr. Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE. “At CARE we have seen the pain endured by survivors of violence as well as the tremendous cost to vital U.S. investments in international development. The International Violence Against Women Act is an important tool for the U.S. as it works to address gender-based violence, and it will help to support the ongoing efforts of countless advocates and activists in developing countries around the world.”
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives, where it has 63 bipartisan co-sponsors.