Lawmakers want US to protect women abroad

A small group of House members has proposed legislation setting up an international version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which would require the United States to act to prevent violence against women and girls around the world.

The International VAWA proposal, or "IVAWA," follows congressional action earlier this year to reauthorize VAWA, which extended domestic anti-violence programs. The new bill from Rep. Jan. Schakowsky (D-Ill.) would set up permanent infrastructure in the U.S. government to help other countries deal with violence, sexual abuse and other acts against women.


"IVAWA would make ending violence against women a U.S. foreign policy priority, promote health programs and survivor services, civil and criminal legal protections, educational opportunities and promotion of economic opportunities for women and girls," Schakowsky said Thursday of her bill, H.R. 3571. "Passage of IVAWA would give us critical tools in the fight against gender-based violence around the world."

The bill is sponsored by three other Democrats, including House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). Engel said one in three women will be a victim of violence around the world, and said the U.S. needs to implement "a coherent strategy for ensuring that our diplomatic and development efforts are more focused on preventing gender-based violence."

The bill is also sponsored by two Republicans, Reps. Richard Hanna (N.Y.) and Chris Gibson (N.Y.).

The legislation would establish an Office of Global Women's Issues at the State Department, which would be led by an Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues. The ambassador would direct policies and funding for programs dealing with gender equality and the advancement of women and girls.

The ambassador would "serve as the principal adviser to the secretary of State regarding gender equality, women's empowerment, and violence against women and girls as a foreign policy matter."

The bill also sets up a Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Within 180 days of passage, the ambassador and senior coordinator would have to develop international efforts to curb violence against women and girls, and brief Congress on that strategy.