#DearObama: 3 Steps to Advance Rights of Women and Girls in Your State of the Union

U.S. President Barack Obama (C), joined by (L-R) Vice Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington State Deborah Parker, Attorney General Eric Holder, Vice President Joseph Biden, trafficking survivor Tysheena Rhames, House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Michael Crapo (R-ID), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), Director of Public Policy of Casa de Esperanza Rosemary Hidalgo-McCabe, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Police Chief James Johnson of Baltimore County in Maryland, and Executive Director of New York City Anti-Violence Project Police Department Sharon Stapel, signs the Violence Against Women Act into law at the Department of the Interior March 7, 2013 in Washington, DC. The law expands protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Obama, , joined by Vice Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington State Deborah Parker, trafficking survivor Tysheena Rhames, Police Chief James Johnson of Baltimore County in Maryland, and Executive Director of New York City Anti-Violence Project Police Department Sharon Stapel, and members of Congress and his adminstration, signs the Violence Against Women Act into law March 7, 2013. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

This blog is part of a series on human rights in the State of the Union address. The United States has an obligation to pursue policies that ensure respect for human rights at home and around the world. Follow along and join the conversation using #SOTUrights.

Dear Mr. President,

This State of the Union, will you make women’s rights a priority?

Women across the world—including here in the U.S.—experience horrific levels of violence. 1 of 3 women globally will be raped, beaten, or otherwise abused in their lifetime, and you, Mr. President, can help end this epidemic.

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Celebrate a Victory for Dominican Women & Urge El Salvador to Follow!

Women shout slogans during a march to commemorate UN's International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, on November 25, 2014 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. (Photo: ERIKA SANTELICES/AFP/Getty Images)

Women during a march to commemorate UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. (Photo: ERIKA SANTELICES/AFP/Getty Images)

Until now, the Dominican Republic was one of the few nations with a complete ban on abortion.  The law did not allow exceptions for the health and safety of the woman; rape or incest; or severe fetal abnormality.  That changed on December 19, when President Danilo Medina put into effect a new Criminal Code that allows abortions under the above-mentioned circumstances.

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Gender-Based Violence and the Arms Trade Treaty

FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

By: Alice Dahle, Co-chair, Women’s Human Rights Thematic Specialist

On December 24, the first ever international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) regulating the sale of conventional arms and ammunition will go into effect. The treaty will require that before authorizing a sale of arms and ammunition across international borders, governments must assess the risk that the weapons will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law, undermine peace and security, or engage in transnational organized crime.  If an exporting country knows there is an “overriding” risk that the arms will be used for these purposes, the sale is prohibited.

In another break-through, the ATT is also the first legally binding international agreement that makes the connection between the international arms trade and gender-based violence (GBV). Only recently has the gendered aspect of armed violence been recognized.  During the drafting of the treaty, Amnesty International joined with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the Women’s Network of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), and Oxfam to enlist the support of both governments and civil society for inclusion of a gender dimension in the treaty.  As a result of these efforts, Article 7(4) of the ATT makes it mandatory for arms exporting countries to assess the risk that their weapons will be used in the commission of GBV and deny authorization of any sales that present an “overriding” risk.   SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

A Discriminatory and Dangerous Law that is Killing Women and Girls in El Salvador

Accused and charged with having an abortion after a miscarriage at 18 years old.

Accused and charged with having an abortion after a miscarriage at 18 years old.

By Chloe Horsma, Amnesty International USA youth activist 

Probably the greatest obstacle I’ve ever faced around my sexual and reproductive rights was a borderline-uncomfortable conversation with my mom when I wanted to look into birth control for the first time.  Many of my friends had similar experiences.  It seemed to me that this was how it was supposed to be–people making decisions about their own health and reproductive rights without hindrance or fear–and for a while, it escaped my notice that not everyone was so lucky. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Stop Shaming Gender-Based Violence Survivors

mbmrBy Heather Schultz, Activist

When a woman or girl survives gender-based violence, you would think that she could expect justice. If she survives a rape, for example, you would think she could expect that the perpetrator would be prosecuted for his crime… not that he could marry her to avoid prosecution if she is under 18. Yet, this is exactly the law in Algeria and Tunisia. And in Morocco, the severity of punishment of the rapist depends not on his crime, but on whether the survivor was a virgin or not! SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Why Birth and Death are Simultaneous for Women in South Africa

Young mother with child, Ermole

Poor infrastructure, lack of privacy and limited access to health services are only a few of the factors contributing to the devastating maternal mortality rate in South Africa.

There is a rural area in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa where the maternal mortality rate more than doubled from 2011 to 2012. Why are women so at risk for dying during childbirth in this province? The reasons are complex and inter-related but many factors can be addressed by the provincial Minister of Health. And we are demanding that he does. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

How Tunisia is Taking Big Steps Towards Ending Sexual Violence

VAWTunisia

By: Jihane Bergaoui, Amnesty International USA, Country Specialist for Morocco and the Western Sahara

This past week I traveled to Tunisia to watch my colleagues from Amnesty Tunisia hand deliver over 198,000 signed petitions from Amnesty International members worldwide, calling on the Tunisian authorities to end discrimination against women and girl survivors of sexual violence. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Let’s put the 16 Days campaign out of business

(FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

(FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

We all know how unfortunately easy it is to find innumerable instances of violence against women occurring on a daily basis in every part of the world. A three-year old rape survivor in Afghanistan, hundreds of abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria, the unsolved murder of 15 year-old María Isabel Veliz Franco in Guatemala, and astonishing rates of sexual violence in Egypt, to name a few.

Violence is horrific wherever it occurs and in whatever context. It is particularly abhorrent in the devastating impact it has on the lives of 1 in 3 women around the world.   SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Discrimination is not natural; it is learned: Ending violence against women

VAW3

Sometimes when I’m in a group of women, I find myself silently ticking us off by sets of three: one, two, three; one, two, three.  Statistically, I know, 1 in 3 of us will be raped, beaten, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.  Such statistics can often ring hollow, but when I count off in my head, I’m thinking of real women; real lives; real suffering. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Good News! Afghan Authorities Commit to Ensure Brishna’s Safety

(FARSHAD USYAN/AFP/Getty Images)

(FARSHAD USYAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Victory! Following the sentencing of Brishna’s rapist, Afghan authorities have now committed to ensuring Brishna’s protection.

In May 2014, Brishna, a 10-year-old girl from Kunduz province, was raped by a local mullah.  She was able to receive medical treatment and protection thanks to the assistance of the organization Women for Afghan Women, but members of her family and community threatened to kill her and “dump her in the river” simply because she was a victim of this crime. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST