Congress should address violence against women


Every day, women and girls are beaten, raped and killed worldwide just because of their gender.  It’s estimated one of every three women will be physically, sexually or otherwise abused during her lifetime, with rates reaching 70 percent in some countries.

The good news is violence against women is preventable, and there are thousands of organizations around the world working to end violence in their own communities. Congress is now poised to help their efforts through the bipartisan International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) sponsored by Reps. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). 

I-VAWA integrates helping survivors and preventing violence into U.S. assistance programs that provide healthcare, education and economic opportunity while promoting legal reform and social change in developing countries.

I-VAWA also makes ending violence against women a diplomatic priority for the first time in U.S. history, and urges the U.S. government to respond to critical outbreaks of gender-based violence in armed conflict  within six months.  

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I-VAWA, which is supported by a coalition of more than 200 U.S. and overseas nongovernmental organizations, is set to be marked up by the House Foreign Affairs Committee soon.
It has strong public support: A recent poll by Women Thrive and the Family Violence Prevention Fund found more than 60 percent of Americans across demographic and partisan lines think ending gender-based violence should be a top foreign policy priority, and more than 80 percent support I-VAWA. 

Passing I-VAWA would help remove a major barrier preventing women and girls from getting an education, working and pulling themselves and their families out of poverty. It would also ensure the money the U.S. spends on national security, development and peacebuilding in places like Afghanistan would be that much more effective. Twenty-nine Senators and nearly 100 Representatives have co-sponsored the bill. It’s time for Congress to step up and pass I-VAWA as soon as possible, because women have waited long enough.

Ritu Sharma, Co-Founder and President, Women Thrive Worldwide, Washington, D.C.