BIDEN Commemorates International Women's Day
Urges Colleagues to Support International Violence Against Women Act
BIDEN: The time is now for the United States to get actively engaged in the fight for women's lives and girls' futures'
On the eve of International Women's Day, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) and author of the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), urged his colleagues to support the bipartisan International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA). This groundbreaking legislation (S. 2279) would ensure that our foreign assistance programs include efforts to end gender-based violence.
"Tomorrow, on March 8th, we will commemorate International Women's Day and celebrate the great achievements by women all across the world," said Sen. Biden. "However, while substantial progress has been made here in the U.S. and in other countries, millions of women continue to live in poverty and fear. The time is now for the United States to get actively engaged in the fight for women's lives and girls' futures.
Every day around the globe, women and girls face domestic violence, rape, forced or child marriage, so-called "honor" killings, dowry-related murder, human trafficking, and female genital mutilation. The United Nations estimates that at least 5,000 "honor" killings take place each year around the world and more than 130,000,000 girls and young women worldwide have been subjected to genital mutilation. A 2006 United Nations Report found that at least 102 member states had no specific laws on domestic violence.
"Violence against women and girls violates their basic human rights. It impedes women's full and active participation in their communities and societies," said Sen. Biden. "Stopping gender-based violence isn't just the moral thing to do; it's also smart diplomacy since violence contributes to the poverty, inequality and instability that threaten our security."
Specifically, the International Violence Against Women Act will:
* Create one central Office for Women's Global Initiatives to coordinate the United States' policies, programs and resources that deal with women's issues. Never before has there been one person who reports directly to the Secretary of State on issues related to gender-based violence.
* Mandate a 5-year comprehensive strategy to fight violence against women in 10 to 20 selected countries and provides a new, dedicated funding stream of $175 million a year to support programs dealing with violence against women in five areas: the criminal and civil justice system, healthcare, girls' access to education and school safety, women's economic empowerment, and public awareness campaigns.
* Require training, reporting mechanisms and a system for dealing with women and girls afflicted by violence during humanitarian, conflict and post-conflict operations. As the recent reports from the Congo make tragically clear, in situations of humanitarian crises, conflict and post-conflict operations, women and girls are particularly vulnerable to violence. Reports of refugee women being raped while collecting firewood, soldiers sexually abusing girls in exchange for token food items, or women subjected to unimaginable brutality and torture as a tactic of war are shocking in number and inhumanity. There is a dire need for increased training and reporting requirements for refugee workers to help crack down on these brutal acts of violence. In addition, the bill crafts a new designation of "critical outbreaks" and requires emergency measures when rape is used as a weapon of war or in conflicts where violence against women is sharply escalating with impunity.
The International Violence Against Women Act was crafted with the input and expertise of over 100 nongovernmental organizations here and abroad working on gender-based violence, human rights, health care, international development and aid. These groups include Amnesty International, CARE, Center for Women's Global Leadership, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Family Violence Prevention Fund, Human Rights Watch, Inter-Agency Gender Working Group (IGWG), International Rescue Committee Jewish Women International, Legal Momentum, Lutheran World Relief, Women's Edge Coalition, and Vital Voices Global Partnership.