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”.