The Senate Foreign Relations Committee today passed bipartisan legislation written by Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) that will establish a comprehensive, five-year strategy to reduce the levels of violence against women and girls globally. The landmark International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) identifies ways to tackle the global epidemic in order to achieve real progress improving the lives of women and girls worldwide. The Committee passed the legislation by a vote of 11 to 8.
"Today, in passing the International Violence Against Women Act, the Committee spoke with a strong and decisive voice. This historic vote sends a powerful message to the world that the United States stands against violence against women and girls, anywhere and everywhere it occurs. This bill tells women and girls that that they are valued, respected members of society who do not have to suffer in silence. IVAWA will use U.S. assistance wisely, bring greater transparency, and improve coordination inside the government and with key stakeholders in civil society. But more importantly, we are saying that now is the time for us to gather the resources and political will to turn IVAWA's promise into a reality for the millions of women and girls whose lives will be improved as a result of this critical legislation," said Chairman Kerry, who introduced the bill in February 2010.
During today's business meeting, Chairman Kerry offered an amendment in response to concerns raised by Republicans and some faith-based groups. Among other things, the amendment reduces authorization levels to "such sums" in order to focus on existing resources. While the use of new funds is possible, the focus is on transparency, accountability, inclusion, and longevity.
The International Violence Against Women Act, S.2982 will:
* mandate the appointment of high level individuals in both the State Department and USAID to be responsible for the issue;
* require interagency coordination, monitoring and evaluation of programs and regular briefings to Congress;
* provide comprehensive, five-year individual country plans for 5-20 countries with high levels of violence against women and girls;
* offer instruction on preventing and responding to violence against women and girls in Department of Defense (DoD) trainings for foreign military, police, and judicial officials;
* provide a strong programmatic component to respond to violence against women in humanitarian relief, peacekeeping, conflict, and post-conflict settings; and
* spotlight widespread violence against women and girls in real time -- such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- by requiring the Secretary of State to develop emergency response plans.
Over 200 humanitarian, faith-based, human rights, refugee and women's organizations have voiced their support for the International Violence Against Women Act, including:
Amnesty International USA, CARE, Family Violence Prevention Fund, Global AIDS Alliance, Jewish Women International, International Center for Research on Women, International Rescue Committee, Lutheran World Relief, Refugees International, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vital Voices Global Partnership, Women's Refugee Commission, Women Thrive Worldwide, and World Vision.