In response to a widespread international prevalence of violence against women and girls, on February 4, 2010, the U.S. House and Senate reintroduced the International Violence Against Women Act of 2010 (IVAWA, H.R. 4594, S. 2982). The bill, which includes new strategies, policy, and programs to address the issue of international violence against women, was originally introduced in 2007, but was not brought to a vote. It calls for the U.S. government to more actively identify situations of dangerous and pervasive acts of international violence against women and create a timely emergency response.1 In conjunction with a more effective American response to international violence against women, the IVAWA plans to provide U.S. programs that train foreign military, police forces, and judicial officials on how to prevent and respond to these acts of violence. It dedicates U.S. assistance to ending violence against women, ensures U.S. accountability in responding to violence against women, and addresses “violence against women and girls in humanitarian relief, peacekeeping, conflict, and post-conflict operations.”2
Congressional sponsors partnered with more than 150 organizations, including Women Thrive Worldwide, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) and the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) to create the bill. The IVAWA has bipartisan support and was introduced in the Senate by Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). The bill currently has 25 cosponsors in the Senate. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Bill Delahunt (D-MA) and Representative Ted Poe (R-TX), and has 25 cosponsors
The United Nations has found that, on average, one in three women experience acts of violence in their lifetime. These acts include rape, beatings, acid burnings, female genital mutilation, and “honor” killings, which are the killings of individuals who are accused of committing acts that have brought shame and dishonor to their family or community. In addition to being degrading to women and in violation of women’s human rights, these acts of violence contribute to other social problems that include poverty, the spread of HIV, and armed conflicts.3 The IVAWA states that the United States recognizes that international violence against women and girls is a repugnant and common occurrence.
The IVAWA also seeks to create new offices and programs to address the problem of international violence against women. The bill aims to create an Office for Global Women’s Issues under the Department of State, which would be used to coordinate U.S. government actions toward gender integration and women empowerment in U.S. foreign policy, and a new position within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which would be in charge of overseeing and fulfilling the goals of IVAWA.
One of the main platforms of the IVAWA is multilateral cooperation. The bill proposes the creation of an international strategy by the United States on how to decrease violence against women. This strategy would identify five to 20 countries with severe levels of violence and assess each country’s capacity to decrease its level of violence. Additionally, it would identify new programs that could be coordinated and a method to evaluate the progress of the IVAWA. The IVAWA aims to have the United States partner with foreign governments and non-governmental organizations in addressing the issues of international violence against women. The bill gives the U.S. Secretary of State and USAID Administrator the ability to allocate more funding to programs that pursue the bill’s goals, including to non-governmental organizations and organizations abroad.
The IVAWA is having success at attracting sponsors in the Senate, as shown by the 25 Senators already having signed-on to the bill. In order to pass, however, the bill requires much more support in the House. The President of the poverty-fighting organization CARE, Dr. Helene Gayle, postulates that “the passage of this legislation would be a historic proactive step forward in improving lives around the world.”4
For more information or to take action, please visit Amnesty International USA, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Women Thrive Worldwide
1 “International Violence Against Women Act,” Women Thrive Worldwide, 16 February 2010, accessed 19 February 2010, <http://www.womenthrive.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=366&Itemid=121>.
2 “Text of S. 2982: A bill to combat international violence against women and girls,” Govtrack.us, 4 February 2010, accessed 19 February 2010, <http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=s111-2982>.
3 “You Have the Power: End Violence Against Women and Girls Worldwide,” Women Strive Worldwide, accessed 18 February 2010, <http://www.womenthrive.org/images/spring2008ivawaonepager.pdf>.
4 “CARE Celebrates Introduction of International Violence Against Women Act,” CARE, 4 February 2010, accessed 19 February 2010, <http://www.care.org/newsroom/articles/2010/02/CARE-Celebrates-Introduction-of-International-Violence-Against-Women-Act-20100208.asp>.