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Human Rights, Women's and Anti-Violence Groups Praise Legislation to Combat Global Violence Against Women

NOVEMBER 1, 2007
12:03 PM

CONTACT: Amnesty International USA, Family Violence Prevention Fund and the Women's Edge Coalition
At AIUSA, Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150 At FVPF,
Lisa Lederer, 202-371-1999
At WEC, Anu Palan, 202-884-8399

Human Rights, Women's and Anti-Violence Groups Praise Legislation to Combat Global Violence Against Women

WASHINGTON, DC - November 1 -Amnesty International USA, the Family Violence Prevention Fund and the Women’s Edge Coalition today applauded the introduction of groundbreaking legislation to combat the global crisis of violence against women and girls. The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) would apply the force of U.S. diplomacy and foreign aid totaling $1 billion over five years toward preventing abuse and exploitation that is estimated to affect one of every three women worldwide.

Introduced by Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), the legislation authorizes over $200 million annually in foreign assistance for international programs that prevent violence, support health programs and survivor services, encourage legal accountability and a change of public attitudes, promote access to economic opportunity projects and education, and better address violence against women in humanitarian situations. The legislation would deal with preventing violence in all of its forms, including honor killings, bride burnings, acid burnings, dowry deaths, genital mutilation, mass rapes in war, or domestic violence.

In 2005, Amnesty International USA, the Family Violence Prevention Fund and Women's Edge Coalition convened meetings to develop the legislation, recognizing the need for a comprehensive worldwide approach, rather than a country-by-country approach or one that looks at separate challenges depending on the form the violence takes. More than 150 U.S.-based experts and 40 women’s groups overseas gave advice on the bill.

The organizations offered their praise and gratitude to Senators Biden and Lugar for their leadership on the issue.

"Violence devastates the lives of millions of women and girls and their families worldwide," said Larry Cox, executive director of AIUSA. "We have seen the terrible consequences of mass rapes in Bosnia, the Congo and elsewhere. We grieve with the mothers in Juárez whose daughters are victims of an ongoing femicide. Violence against women, whether in the home or in armed conflict, destabilizes communities, undermines economic development and breeds poverty and despair."

Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler said: "It's time for our nation to do much more to protect women and children worldwide. We intend to put the same energy and resources into enacting I-VAWA that we put into the (domestic)Violence Against Women Act."

"Violence is one of the biggest barriers to women's economic participation. It's hard to work if you fear for your life," said Ritu Sharma Fox, co-founder and president of the Women's Edge Coalition. "This legislation will ensure that hard-earned tax dollars support efforts to end this scourge, and that violence does not prevent women from going to work, getting an education and supporting their families."

The bill would develop strategies in 25 countries for U.S. programs to address violence against women and girls. It creates the first high level U.S. State Department office working explicitly on violence against women, raising prevention of gender-focused violence to a diplomatic priority. The coordinator would seek to integrate best practices in violence prevention across the government's diplomatic and foreign assistance work, while adding financial support for local health programs or reform efforts.

For example, the legislation funds activities to integrate training by local women's groups or NGOs to change social attitudes that condone violence against women and girls into humanitarian assistance programs or to train lawyers and police on how to deal with domestic violence cases in legal reform programs. mportantly, it also supports local efforts by bolstering the work of women's organizations overseas that are already working to end violence against women in their countries.

Of key interest, the legislation would also decrease potential sexual exploitation and abuse by U.S. humanitarian workers, military personnel, military contractors and police involved in peacekeeping operations by creating training programs to prevent such abuse and a complaints mechanism for reporting problems.

The United Nations Development Fund for Women estimates that at least one of every three women globally will be beaten, raped, or otherwise abused during her lifetime.

Maureen Greenwood-Basken, AIUSA's advocacy director for Europe and Central Asia, said:

"Until now we have seen only sporadic efforts to stop violence in one or more countries. The problem is too widespread and deeply rooted for a scattershot approach. We need a consistent vision to stop violence. This bill sends that message."


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