Violence. It comes in many forms. Some of the most brutal and damaging forms of violence are those that are committed against women. Rape, female genital mutilation, forced marriages, domestic violence, honor killings... the list is endless. These actions do not just hurt the women, or their families and communities, but global society at large. How long will we continue to accept the fact that at least one in every three women worldwide will have been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime?
Women have increasingly become the target of egregious acts of violence. This is an unacceptable reality as we approach the year 2010, in an evolving era of international human rights.
In a monumental moment on Capitol Hill on October 1, 2009 the Senate held a hearing on ending violence against women around the world
. It was obvious from the size of the crowd, lined up an hour before the hearing, that this was a hearing long overdue. The fully packed hearing room showed the public’s support for the U.S. tackling this painful issue.
A special thanks is owed to Senator Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and to Senator Lugar, who convened the hearing to discuss the effects of violence against women across the world. A Subcommittee hearing chaired by Senators Boxer and Feingold on May 13, 2009 on the topic of rape as a weapon of war in the DRC and Sudan preceded this hearing.
The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA), which was originally introduced into Congress by then Senator Biden and Senator Lugar, will be key to preventing and responding to the violence. It would ensure that the U.S. take a comprehensive approach in its foreign assistance policies to preventing and responding to gender-based violence. This piece of legislation must be reintroduced immediately and a strong version of it passed.
At the hearing, Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large of the State Department’s new Office of Global Women’s Issues, gave a strong and clear statement that defined the global crisis of gender-based violence while providing possible solutions to the problem. As she stated in her testimony, “The scale and the scope of the problem make it simultaneously one of the largest and most entrenched humanitarian and development issues before us.” However, these solutions can not be reached without real U.S. commitment. Therefore, the U.S. must follow through by committing itself to policy initiatives like I-VAWA if it is serious about alleviating the suffering of millions of women and girls around the globe.
As we heard in the expert testimonies, this Senate hearing was well-timed. Earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chaired a United Nations Security Council meeting on September 30, which saw the introduction of UN Resolution 1888 that will provide greater protection to women and girls during times of conflict
There are countless reasons to support policy initiatives that focus on preventing and ending violence against women, most important of which is to end the tragic pandemic. However, there are other compelling reasons to support such efforts, including a well-documented link between violence and economics. During her testimony, Dr. Gupta, President of the International Center for Research on Women noted that, “We pay a high price for violence against women. The cost of a single incident of violence has a multiplier effect... these costs add up, undermining development and foreign assistance goals.”
Hillary Clinton should be applauded for her work at the UN that led to the passage of Resolution 1888. However, the U.S. cannot stop there. We must move quickly to end the menace of violence by showing U.S. commitment at the national level too. One rape or assault is one too many. The desecration of women worldwide must end as we strive towards this common goal together.
October 02, 2009
| Tagged as: Congress, Women