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Public Statements


Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. RUBIO. Mr. President, I think this is topical to the item we are debating, which is to proceed to the Violence Against Women Act, and I wish to take a moment to highlight a couple of egregious examples around the world where young girls and women are being threatened by violence in what remains a scourge throughout the planet, and then I will focus on here at home as well.

On April 17--and this is a pretty shocking incident--about 150 Afghan school girls were poisoned after drinking contaminated water. It appears by all signals that it was a deliberate contamination of the water. They are blaming this on conservative radicals who are opposed to female education. So there is evidence to suggest that 150 girls from Afghanistan were poisoned because they went to school. This is happening in the 21st century.

A new report from the Human Rights Commission on Pakistan says there were 943 Pakistani women killed in 2011 and they were killed for ``honor.'' Of the 953 victims, 93 were minors. Around 595 of the women killed in 2011 were accused of having ``illicit relations,'' and 219 of them were accused of marrying without permission. Again, this is the 21st century we are talking about where these things are happening. In fact, this same report, in 2010, says there were 791 honor killings of women in Pakistan.

Here is one that is really disturbing and very sick. In South Africa, a group of young males in Soweta were filmed raping a 17-year-old who was believed to be mentally ill. In fact, the term ``rapevideo'' was trending on Twitter in South Africa on Wednesday. It is estimated by some organizations that a woman is raped every 26 seconds in South Africa. There is a report with regard to this specific Soweta rape that the men promised the girl 25 cents if she kept silent.

Let's turn to our hemisphere for a moment, where, tragically, of the 25 countries around the world with the highest homicide rates for women, 14 are in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a recent survey by a Geneva-based research organization called Small Arms Survey. The three most dangerous countries for women were El Salvador, Jamaica, and Guatemala, respectively.

As a region, a U.N. study found in 2011 that the Americas, including the United States and Canada, were ranked second only to Africa for female homicide rates. While females represent only 10 percent of the murder victims in the Americas, the sheer level of violence in the region, particularly in Latin America, puts women at risk.

Here at home, I was honored a few weeks ago to sign a letter, along with Senators KIRK, Blumenthal, and CORNYN, which we wrote to about 40 organizations back on April 12 to inform them that the parent company of the Village Voice publications they advertise on owns, an online classified advertising Web site linked to dozens of child-trafficking cases in this country. We asked these companies, charitable organizations, and public, educational, and cultural institutions to work together to use their economic influence to stop this from happening, to stop this online child sex trafficking that is being facilitated by sites such as these.

I want to report to my colleagues today that there has been some progress. This letter is already having an impact. We have had representatives from two of the recipients of the letter respond that their companies will quickly act to end their advertising on the Village Voice publications.

The fact is what I just outlined now is happening here in the United States of America. I highlighted things happening around the world, and I highlighted a case of something we can be doing right now here in the United States.

The reason I come to the floor on occasion to speak about human rights violations that are happening around the world and in our own country is to remind us that atrocities are not just things that happened in history, they are happening today. If we just open a newspaper and open our eyes, we will find modern-day atrocities that rival things we have read about in history. Things we might believe are unimaginable or impossible are occurring in this century. Here in our country, we have instances such as this, where it is estimated that up to 300,000 children could potentially be at risk--300,000 people, young women, children, et cetera, in our hemisphere--to become victims of human trafficking. Part of that happens here in our own country. So we have an obligation to focus on these issues.

I will continue to use this forum and any opportunity I get to highlight human rights abuses that are happening across the world and in our own country because awareness is always the first step toward confronting these issues. The notion that one can somehow get away with this without condemnation encourages people to do more of it, encourages people to think they can get away with it, encourages people to think it may even be culturally acceptable. It is not culturally acceptable for any civilized people to stand by and watch human beings being enslaved, trafficked, abused, or targeted. We cannot stand by silently--and I am not claiming anyone in this Chamber does this--and argue that it is culturally acceptable to carry out an honor killing of a woman because she got married without permission. That is outrageous and it is absurd. It has no place in our world.

If this Nation is to remain a leader on human rights, then those of us who serve it have an obligation to use forums such as this to call attention to egregious examples, such as those I cited today, and to condemn them in the loudest voice possible. So in the weeks and months to come, I hope to continue to come to the floor and provide not just examples of abuses happening around the world but also examples, such as the one I finished with today. That is an example of how we can, working across the party aisle in this Chamber, work collaboratively to do something about it. This letter to the advertisers on in the Village Voice is just one example of the things we can be doing to ensure we condemn and put a stop to some of these most heinous practices.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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