WASHINGTON (Nov. 14, 2017)–The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) applauds the introduction of the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA). This bill addresses the violence that women and girls face daily – sometimes even hourly – around the world and makes ending it a central U.S. foreign policy priority.
The statistics are staggering: an estimated one in three women will face physical, mental or sexual abuse in their lifetimes. Nearly 39,000 girls under the age 18 are married each day, approximately 150 million girls each year, often leading to severed educational trajectories and negative economic and health outcomes for the rest of their lives. Child marriage, a form of violence in and of itself, increases the likelihood of experiencing other forms of violence by 22 percent. Female genital mutilation/cutting has impacted more than 200 million women and girls alive today, some with deadly consequences. And during periods of conflict or unrest, incidence of all forms of gender-based violence increase significantly: Approximately 21 percent women in conflict settings report experiencing sexual violence, according to meta-analysis from Johns Hopkins University. While men and boys are also at risk of violence, women and girls (and gender non-conforming individuals) are disproportionately affected, which is why measures directed at preventing and responding to violence towards them are so necessary.
Decades of programmatic evidence have allowed the international community to establish a robust understanding for what works to prevent and address gender-based violence. What was once thought of as private violence has been shown to have enormous social and economic costs. IVAWA makes ending violence against women and girls a top diplomatic, development and foreign assistance priority by ensuring the U.S. government has a strategy to efficiently and effectively coordinate existing cross-governmental efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally. The bill empowers the United States to work with other countries toward preventing violence against women and girls and responding to the effects of these practices on societies and economies. It holds governments accountable for acting to end rampant violence while empowering women and girls to lift their voices against it.
ICRW President Sarah Degnan Kambou stated, “With more conflicts taking place across the globe than at any time since World War II, the need for the bill is greater than ever. Women and girls everywhere deserve a chance to live lives free from violence. ICRW stands with more than 50 partner organizations that support this legislation and we urge Congress to swiftly consider and pass the International Violence Against Women Act to support women and girls, along with their communities and nations, to work to end violence.”
Coming on the heels of the signing into law of the Women, Peace and Security Act in October, IVAWA sends an important signal of the bipartisan commitment to the safety and security of women and girls. IVAWA recognizes that violence against women and girls is embedded in cultural and societal norms of unequal status and power, requiring a long-term approach that fosters personal, community, and societal changes. The solutions to preventing and responding to such violence require the commitment of advocates, elected officials and international leaders to stand in solidarity across the globe to end gender inequality and address the injustice of violence.