With an energized, standing-room-only crowd behind her, International Center for Research (ICRW) on Women President Geeta Rao Gupta on Oct. 1 told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that ending violence against women worldwide will require a comprehensive, adequately-funded approach that strengthens women economically and also engages men and boys.
She also stressed that if the U.S. wants to show moral leadership on the issue, it must ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Without doing so, “the U.S. lacks a certain international credibility to be a true global partner with other countries in calling attention to violence against women,” Rao Gupta said to applause.
Rao Gupta was one of six witnesses invited to testify before the committee chaired by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) The hearing aimed to make a case for the International Violence Against Women’s Act, which was introduced in 2008 by then Delaware Democratic Senator and current Vice President Joseph Biden and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.). Kerry said Thursday he intends to reintroduce IVAWA, although he didn’t specify when.
Witnesses’ testimony centered on the importance of treating violence against women – particularly sexual violence in conflict zones – not as a “women’s issue,” but as a matter of human rights and international security. They stressed the need to expand programs that already are working and enforce existing laws against violence.
Rao Gupta told the committee that the ill treatment of women globally is rooted in a host of reasons, and combating it requires afar-reaching approach. She said that multiple sectors within a country must give women access to and control over economic resources to help reduce women’s vulnerability to violence.
“Violence against women is the single most significant barrier to women being able to access services or take advantage of all the economic investments we make in developing countries,” Rao Gupta told Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) during questioning.
“All of this economic growth that you see in these emerging countries is going to be capped at some point,” she said, “if women are dragging behind.”
Gillian Gaynair is ICRW's writer/editor.