Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry - Combating Gender-Based Violence Abroad

March 22, 2013

The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

As you begin the important work of addressing the many foreign policy challenges facing our country, we respectfully request that you build on your commitment to empower women and girls around the globe by ensuring that efforts to combat gender-based violence (GBV) are a central component of your agenda.

We were pleased that in your recent testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee you pledged to continue to support the role of an Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues and fully implement the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. We hope that you will offer similar support for efforts to address GBV by working to implement and resource the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally, which lays out a comprehensive framework for combating GBV.

Sadly, an estimated one in three women worldwide will be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in their lifetime, with rates nearing 50 percent or higher in countries such as Peru, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. No country is immune. Gender-based violence cuts across cultures and borders and takes many forms, ranging from domestic violence to devastating practices such as honor killings and the use of rape as a weapon of war during armed conflict.

Child marriage--another form of GBV--has lifelong consequences for girls. Not only are girls who marry young deprived of educational opportunities, but their lives are put in danger. In fact, the risk of death in pregnancy and childbirth for girls under the age of 15 is five times higher than for women in their 20s.

In addition, we know that GBV has a tremendous impact on families and communities, ranging from increased health costs to lost earnings. Ultimately, the cost of such violence hinders the ability of women and girls to fully participate in their communities and perpetuates the cycles of gender inequality and poverty.

We know you share our view that empowering women is critical to U.S. efforts to strengthen communities, reduce poverty and promote peace around the world. That is why we believe it is so important to fully resource and implement the GBV strategy.

Thank you for your consideration of this important request. We look forward to working with you on this, and many other critical issues.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Johnny Isakson
United States Senator

Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senator

Mark Kirk
United States Senator

Benjamin L. Cardin
United States Senator

Susan M. Collins
United States Senator

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

John McCain
United States Senator

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Ron Wyden
United States Senator

Al Franken
United States Senator

Barbara A. Mikulski
United States Senator

Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator

Sherrod Brown
United States Senator

Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator

Amy Klobuchar
United States Senator

Sheldon Whitehouse
United States Senator

Christopher A. Coons
United States Senator

Jeanne Shaheen
United States Senator

Elizabeth Warren
United States Senator

Jeff Merkley
United States Senator

Mark Udall
United States Senator

Tim Kaine
United States Senator

Christopher Murphy
United States Senator