Five Reasons to Be Excited About Passage of the Violence Against Women Act

Activists unite in Farragut Square in Washington, D.C. for the One Billion Rising event (Photo Credit: Sarah K. Eddy)

(Photo Credit: Sarah K. Eddy)

We did it! The groundbreaking Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was just passed by the House of Representatives and will now be sent to President Obama for his signature!

It’s been a long road to victory. I wrote earlier this year about the indefensible demise of VAWA in the last Congress. The last Congress missed a momentous opportunity to stand up for the safety of all women. So women – and men – stood up for themselves; on February 14, 2013, Amnesty International joined the One Billion Rising movement to stand up, walk out, and dance to end violence against women globally. We called for Congress to quit the partisan politics and finally pass a Violence Against Women Act that included ALL communities.

Since then, we have seen the new Congress introduce and pass VAWA in the Senate and now the House has followed suit.

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Not a Billion More

One Billion Rising

I was in Delhi on December 17 when tens of thousands marched in solidarity to support a young victim of rape.

On the evening of December 16, this young woman and her friend boarded a bus to return home after watching a movie. Her friend was attacked, while she was assaulted and raped by five men on the bus. Both were then left to die on the side of a busy street. Her injuries were so severe, that she succumbed to them a few weeks later.

Angered by her plight, thousands took to the streets to demand justice and accountability from a system that they think routinely ignores issues around women’s safety. Subsequently, the Indian government showed uncharacteristic speed in apprehending and trying the suspects. And now substantial efforts are under way to overhaul the country’s legal, social, and cultural response to violence against women.

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A huge step forward: IVAWA passes in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee!

The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) (S.2982) just passed in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee! The IVAWA is the first comprehensive piece of legislation in the United States aimed at ending violence against women and girls around the world – it would support innovative programs to help victims, hold perpetrators accountable and prevent violence.

This is a HUGE and long awaited step forward to passing this landmark piece of legislation that will help to prevent and respond to violence against women globally. Many thanks to all of our incredible activists and supporters who have taken action to help pass IVAWA – we would not have gotten this far without your dedication and activism. Your calls, letters, emails and faxes to your members of Congress have been critical to educating our elected representatives about this important issue and crucial to shoring up their support (and their votes!) for IVAWA!

BUT WE ARE NOT DONE YET. While passage of IVAWA in committee is a huge step forward, we still have to pass IVAWA in the House of Representatives and bring the bill to the floor of both the House and Senate for a full floor vote! Time is running out as Congress begins to wrap up but we can do this! Please continue to reach out to your elected officials – let your Senators and Representatives know that you want to help end violence against women and girls globally and ask them to PASS IVAWA NOW! Let them hear your voices – that it is UNACCEPTABLE that one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, with rates of domestic violence reaching 70% in some countries.

We can make a difference – tell Congress to pass IVAWA now.

Crank It Up – We are Calling on All Crows to help end violence against women around the world!

Earlier this morning, Chad Stokes – lead singer of State Radio and co-founder of women’s empowerment organization Calling All Crows – stopped by the Amnesty DC office along with co-founder and Chairwoman Sybil Gallagher and Co-Executive Director Matt, for a quick visit as they prepped for a sold-out acoustic set tonight in Vienna, VA.

Calling All Crows and State Radio has been working closely with AIUSA to support and pass the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) in Congress this year.  On their recent tour, State Radio and Calling All Crows has been highlighting IVAWA and the impact that passage of such a monumental bill would have in places such as the DRC where mass rapes were reported earlier this year, by calling on fans to reach out to their members of Congress in support of IVAWA!

CRANK IT UP – check out State Radio’s inspiring song and video “Calling All Crows” below. And to find out more about State Radio’s tour and the incredible activism that State Radio is engaged in, check out their website here.

As many of you already know, IVAWA creates a comprehensive, integrated approach to preventing and responding to violence and places women at the center of U.S. foreign policy. It has the potential to reform social attitudes and address the underlying human rights abuses that leave women exposed to violence. AIUSA has been working hard with our coalition partners, our incredible grassroots, grasstops and of course State Radio and Calling All Crows, to pass IVAWA now! Your activism and support has and continues to be critical to passing IVAWA – so keep it up and TAKE ACTION NOW by:

Tweet to Stop Violence Against Women!

There’s just a few weeks remaining of 2010 and even fewer remaining of the 111th United States Congress.  Time is running out to pass critical legislation.  This week Congress has the chance to take action to move the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), a Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote is scheduled to take place on Thursday, December 2nd.

Many of you have taken action in support of IVAWA, made phone calls, written letters and sent letters to the newspaper.  During the 16 days of activism against gender based violence which began on November 25th don’t forget the other effective way of letting Congress know that you oppose the abuse of women and girls worldwide and you that you want the United States Government to use the opportunity to take action. Join the pass IVAWA tweet-a-thon! On November 30th, the IVAWA coalition is calling on activists across the country to tweet messages of support for IVAWA and calls for action.  If enough people tweet about IVAWA we can really draw attention to the bill, generate more calls and activism and potentially make this a trending topic on Twitter.

Some sample tweets are:

  • Not one more woman, not one more rape. http://bit.ly/ezlk8T #IVAWA
  • Call your member of Congress NOW @202-224-3121 & say pass #IVAWA (S2982/H.R.4594)!
  • Help end violence against women globally! http://bit.ly/ezlk8T #IVAWA

Or make up your own tweet, just don’t forget to include the #IVAWA so we can make this an important trending topic for the day.

If you are a really dedicated social media activist check out the IVAWA activist toolkit for other campaigning tactics.  Also don’t forget to make a call and urge your member of Congress to pass IVAWA as well.  See how its done on this fun “how to” video:

Act now, there’s no time to delay in the struggle to stop the violent abuse of women and girls globally.

One Quick Call to Stop Violence Against Women!

Right now, we have the best chance we have ever had of passing the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA). Our elected officials need to hear that their constituents believe ending the abuse of women around the world is a priority for the United States.

In just three easy steps, you can make a quick call to your Representative and Senators to ask them to help pass IVAWA. Watch this instructional video from Laura, Katie, and Christina to find out the fun and fast way to call your elected representatives:

After watching this video you’ll realize it doesn’t take a celebrity to make a difference in the legislative process, it just takes one call from you, a constituent, to let members of Congress know you think the United States has an important role to play in stopping violence against women internationally!

Step 1: Visit Congress.org to find your Representative and Senators by entering your zip code. Then call the Congressional switchboard to ask to be connected to your Congressional represenatives: 202-224-3121.

Step 2: Identify yourself as a constituent and give your name. Ask the office whether the Congressman/woman supports H.R. 4594/S. 2982 the International Violence Against Women Act.

Step 3: If your Congressman/woman is a cosponsor, thank them and ask them to please vote YES when it comes to the House/Senate floor. If they are not a cosponsor, urge them to be one and vote Yes for IVAWA!

With the help of these three steps and this video from Amnesty, it’s easy to make the call to your members of Congress and urge them to pass IVAWA now!

And, if you have more than 1 minute to spare for IVAWA, check out the IVAWA fall 2010 activist toolkit that is packed full of great activist resources.

31 Days of Action: Support the International Violence Against Women Act

Amnesty International and partner organizations are taking part in the 31 Days of Action campaign during the month of July to shore up support in Congress for the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA).

Violence against women and girls represents a global health, economic development, and human rights problem. At least one out of every three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, with rates of domestic violence reaching 70% in some countries.

The International Violence Against Women Act is an unprecedented effort by the United States to address violence against women globally.

The United States has a valuable opportunity to raise the issue of women’s rights in its diplomatic work. Finally, we can work together to end the suffering of millions of women and girls.

Please join us this month as we urge members of Congress to support IVAWA.  We’ll be asking our supporters to send targeted messages throughout the month to key legislators via Facebook and Twitter (@amnesty) so please follow us there for details!

Human Rights Commissioners ask how the U.S. can end Violence Against Women.

Humaira Shahid speaking at I-VAWA introduction event. (c) Alex RobinsonEarlier this month, I attended the Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on Violence Against Women.  This hearing and the witnesses’ testimonies demonstrated the immediate need for passage of the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA), a bill that was introduced in February in both the House and the Senate.  In a great showing of solidarity, the room was filled past “standing room only;” people were even sitting on the floor!
Demonstrating their bipartisan support, I-VAWA champions Congressmen Delahunt (D-MA) and Poe (R-TX) testified and spoke of their support for the bill’s passage.  Congressman Delahunt referred to domestic violence against women legislation, and noted its great impact.  “I daresay making violence against women a priority and a component in our foreign policy…over time… we will see the kind of results we’ve seen here elsewhere.”  Congressman Poe addressed the issue of the United States taking on this large leadership role in ending violence against women globally.  “The U.S. should be the leader on human rights around the world; it’s what we do in this country.”  Quoting his granny – and the philosophy of grandmothers worldwide – Poe continued, “You never hurt somebody you claim to love.”  The women being abused, raped, and murdered across the globe could easily be our mothers, grandmothers, daughters, and sisters here in the U.S.

The esteemed panel of witnesses was made up of  Ambassador-at-Large for the Office of War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp, Lydia Mungherera, founder of Mama’s Club in Uganda and Board Member of Global Aids Alliance, Humaira Shahid, a former journalist and parliamentarian from Pakistan, Gary Barker from the International Center for Research on Women who spoke about the value of engaging men and boys in the struggle to against violence and Retired Major-General Patrick Cammaert, a former UN Force Commander.

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New bill to end violence against women:"An act of compassion.."

I was honored to attend the event to mark the re-introduction of the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) on Thursday February 4th.  There was quite a turn out – politicians, activists and advocates all committed to ending the global scourge of violence against women and all gathered to celebrate the long awaited introduction of this landmark legislation. 

The bill  is a comprehensive response to this global human rights violation that places women’s rights at the center of United States foreign policy and supports programs which have been shown to reduce rates of violence – including education, health, legal reform, economic opportunity and public awareness raising programs.  A bipartisan team of sponsors from the House and the Senate were represented at the event and they were joined by two important  women who had first hand experience of confronting violence against women.  Humaira Shahid, an editor and legislator in Pakistan, was behind groundbreaking legislative reform to defend the rights of women in Pakistan, including a resolution to abolish acid attacks, amendment of criminal laws to increase protection of women from domestic violence and the Women’s Protection Act.  As Humaira put it during her speech ”..women are the untapped reservoir we should invest in to bring real change…and I-VAWA is the way to do it” 

The other guest of honor was our very own Amnesty activist Irene Safi Turner.  Irene has worked on gender issues in Central Africa for almost a decade.  She made a moving speech on the value of I-VAWA to women like those affected by the conflcit and violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  “The legislation will bring a sense of hope and purpose for thousands of Congolese women victims of violence who are traumatized and stigmatized by their community” she said “The International Violence Against Women Act is an act of compassion and solidarity”.

(C) Alexandra Robinson. Sen. John Kerry, Rep Schakowsky and Humaira Shahid applaud Irene Safi Turner after she spoke at the IVAWA introduction event.

(C) Alexandra Robinson. Sen. John Kerry, Rep Schakowsky and Humaira Shahid applaud Irene Safi Turner after she spoke at the IVAWA introduction event.

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Protection for women a top foreign policy priority

Originally posted on Politico.com

By Sen. John F. Kerry, Rep. Bill Delahunt, Kerry Kennedy & Larry Cox

Rita Mahato, a mother of three, works as a health adviser for the Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC) in Nepal, counseling rape victims and registering cases of domestic violence routinely dismissed by the local police. In June 2007, a mob of more than 60 men surrounded her offices, threatening to rape and kill Rita and her colleagues – demanding that they end their work. Three years later, Rita and her team continue to be threatened, harassed and physically abused, yet the police have failed to take action. Despite threats to her life, Rita perseveres defending the human rights of women and seeking justice for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Sadly, Rita’s experience is not unique: women around the world are subject to abuse and many also face extreme poverty.

It doesn’t have to be that way. That’s why today a bipartisan coalition, led by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) in the Senate and Congressmen Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) and Ted Poe (R-Texas) in the House, will introduce the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA). Introduction of this bill supports the efforts of President Obama and Secretary Clinton to rightly put women at the very center of a broad global security agenda that factors in the great challenges of our decade and invests in the world’s peacemakers.

Passage of the bill is critical. Every day, women and girls are battered, beaten, raped or otherwise brutalized. In some countries, more than 70 percent of women have been the victims of domestic violence. And, for most of these women, justice is elusive, because where violence against women is endemic, so too are impunity and poor governance. Not only can they expect police, prosecutors and judges to refuse to investigate cases against their perpetrators, too often, they can also expect to be condemned, shamed and even punished themselves.

IVAWA will support innovative programs that challenge public attitudes and cultural practices that perpetuate and condone violence against women and girls. In settings where women are prevented or discouraged from seeking justice, IVAWA will support training for police and judicial officials on countering violence against women and respecting the rights of victims. It will allow long-term prevention efforts such as increasing women’s economic security, expanding access to jobs and education, and engaging men to change behaviors and attitudes. Societies in which women are able to live and function in relative safety, empowered to realize their aspirations and move their communities forward are healthier, better developed, and more stable. Societies that take measures to deter discrimination and violence against women are better equipped to root out terrorism, less prone to conflict, and therefore more secure.

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