On Wednesday, November 20, advocates working to combat gender-based violence delivered testimonies at the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights Hearing on Gender-Based Violence urging Congressional action to end violence against women and girls.
At the hearing, Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) announced that she would reintroduce the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) on November 21. This marks the fourth time the bill is being reintroduced in the House, and advocates everywhere are rallying for its passage.
“Gender-based violence is a gross violation of rights and an impediment to development—and it’s also preventable,” said Sarah Degnan Kambou, President of International Center for Research on Women. “We know solutions exist. We know what works to prevent violence before it happens and to adequately support survivors when it does. We see the horrific headlines every day in the news—India, Egypt, Syria—the list goes on. There are too many for the U.S. not to do something. The moment is now.”
Advocates offered strong testimonies on the urgent need for the U.S. to take action to combat gender-based violence around the world. “Living free from violence is a human right, yet one in three women will experience violence in her lifetime,” said Cristina Finch, Managing Director of Amnesty International USA’s Women’s Human Rights Program.
“Gender based violence is a public health challenge and a barrier to social, political, and economic participation. It undermines the dignity, overall health status, and human rights of millions of individuals who experience it, as well as the public health, economic stability and security of nations,” said Catherine Russell, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.
The hearing explored the range of threats that women and girls are facing around the world, as well as the extent U.S. development programs are addressing the needs of GBV survivors in emergency and development environments.
On the increase of gender-based violence in India, Ravi Kant, President of Shakti Vahini said the increase in numbers is due to media attention: “the more people are talking about these cases, more and more women and girls are coming out and registering their cases.” Kant explained that this was a big step and also touched on the importance of involving men and boys in efforts to end gender-based violence.
I-VAWA would dramatically increase U.S. action to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally, making it a permanent addition to U.S. foreign policy. It would enhance data collection and transparency of results; promote access to economic and education opportunity programs; support health programs and survivor services; and support and build capacity for effective local organizations working to eliminate violence against women and girls.
As Catherine Russell told Congress, “[w]e have seen what is possible. We know that empowering women and protecting them from violence will lead to stronger families, stronger communities, and stronger nations.”
As we say farewell to 2021, we are grateful for the opportun