Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - T"Violence Against Women: Global Costs and Consequences"
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) delivered the following opening statement at the hearing titled "Violence Against Women: Global Costs and Consequences":
We are here today to talk about violence against women, a subject that is too often separated from our larger discussion about global instability, insecurity and violence. We did some research, and this is the first time that violence against women, on a global scale, has been the subject of a hearing of the full Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So we are all part of a ground-breaking occasion today.
One of the core tenets of the new Administration's approach to security has been to go beyond the traditional categories to factor in the challenges of global health, global climate change, and global finance. The President and the Secretary of State have rightly put women at the very center of this broader global agenda.
Societies where women are safe, where women are empowered to realize their aspirations and move their communities forward--are healthier and more stable societies. Societies that deter violence against women are better prepared to grow economically, less prone to conflict and bloodshed, and better equipped to root out terrorism and insurgency before they emerge.
If every society respected and valued women equally, America's international burden would be smaller and our people would be safer. That goal ought to be recognized as crucial to global security and America's security going forward.
This hearing comes at a tragic but timely moment. Just yesterday, credible reports from Guinea told of women sexually assaulted by police, soldiers and ordinary civilians during a protest, in plain daylight. Even when seeking aftercare, women were harassed and in many cases, it was the victims of rape who were arrested.
As shocking as these stories are, and for all the collective international outrage, acts like this continue with impunity, and on a harrowing scale. The UN says that up to six out of every ten women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. The World Bank has found that, for women and girls between the ages of 16 and 44, rape and domestic violence are more dangerous than cancer, motor vehicle accidents, war and malaria.
Domestically, our government has worked for years to address violence against women. And I want to single out for praise the former Chairman of this Committee and the Judiciary Committee, Vice President Biden, for his steadfast effort that resulted in passage of a domestic Violence Against Women Act in 1994. That act marked a fundamental turning point in our government's seriousness about addressing violence against women, and women and girls all over this country are safer as a result.
What we need now is to offer some of the same protections to women everywhere. That's why I plan to introduce the International Violence Against Women Act, a bill designed to put the machinery of our government to work on reducing global violence against women. To do that, the bill creates new positions inside both the State Department and USAID, gives them the staff they need to impact policy, the budget to plan and meet priorities, and the stature to make sure that, when important decisions are being made, a champion for women's issues is in the room.
We must confront the imbalances in opportunity and status between men and women. The Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen estimated back in 1990 that more than 100 million women were missing from the planet due to sex-selective abortions and female infanticide. This included more than 40 million in China and 35 million in India. Distorted gender balances fuel trafficking, abductions, forced marriages, and disaffection among young men who can't get married and raise families.
By contrast, countries that value and empower women and girls are more economically successful and peaceful. And it turns out that championing these values is also an extremely effective and cost-efficient way to advance America's foreign assistance goals, including alleviating poverty, improving health care, educating children and developing economies.
I look forward to hearing from our two sets of distinguished panelists on the current status of women internationally, as well as the President's efforts to link women's security into our overall foreign policy. I am especially interested in hearing what more needs to be done to integrate women's empowerment into our large-scale assistance programs, and to ensure we give women a voice in so many countries where today they are silenced.