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.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Another Year Lost for the Lives and Dignity of Congo’s Women

Rape survivors awaiting surgery, Panzi hospital, Bukavu, South-Kivu province. Copyright Amnesty International

Three years ago when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took the unprecedented step of travelling to the Eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to meet with rape survivors of the country’s brutal conflict, I was elated and hopeful. Elated because Secretary Clinton was doing something that had never been done before—sending the message that sexual violence is just as high on America’s foreign policy agenda as trade or traditional capital-to-capital diplomacy, and that the dignity and needs of survivors are a particular priority. Hopeful because I thought it meant perhaps three years later we would see some real change for women in that unending war.

I was wrong.

Tens of thousands of civilians have this very week been displaced following the fall of Goma, a city in Congo’s war-torn east, to the armed group M23, worsening an already dire human rights situation.  Since only April of this year, fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 armed group has displaced 226,000 people in North Kivu province, and 60,000 refugees have fled to Uganda and Rwanda. As with the many other chapters in what’s become known as Africa’s world war, sexual violence has been a trademark of the recent fighting. Amnesty International has documented numerous crimes under international law and other human rights violations committed in the course of fighting between M23 and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) army in recent months.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Fear and Injustice Continues 10 Years After Gujarat Riots

Gujarat Riots India

Rafatjhan Meiuddin Shaikh looks on at the refugee settlement 'Citizen Nagar' for Muslims affected by the Gujarat riots near a landfill in the Dani Limda area of Ahmedabad on February 26, 2012. (SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images)

The image of Qutubuddin Ansari is seared into my memory of one of the darkest days in India’s history. Mr. Ansari’s pleading to be spared from the vicious mobs is a reminder of the injustice that continues after the month-long outbreak of violence that resulted in the killing of at least 2,000 women, men and children, mostly Muslims, and the rape of significant numbers of women and girls, in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

The photographer, Arko Datta of Reuters, remembered that moment: “There were youths armed with swords, knifes and spears from Hindu neighborhoods crossing over, setting fire to Muslim homes and shops. I just looked back at for a moment and saw him standing in the first floor of a building, just a few hundred feet away from me. He was pleading, pleading for help.” Ten years after the riots, the families of the murdered victims, the victims of the rape and sexual violence and the 21,000 people still in “relief camps” still plead for justice.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

The Best Way to Combat Violence Against Women in Iran: Stop Violating Them!

Iranian Woman’s Testimony of Rape and Torture from IntlCampforHRinIran on Vimeo.

Iran has been experiencing a disturbing uptick in the incidence of gang rapes of women recently. A public outcry has gone up over the number of such attacks that have occurred in the last few months. The Iranian government has responded by, first of all, suggesting that the women’s clothing and behavior could have encouraged the attackers; and second of all, by carrying out executions of those accused of rape.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Lydia Cacho Threatened Again

Lydia Cacho, a journalist and human rights defender based in Cancún, Mexico, received new death threats last month by email and telephone.

On June 14, Cacho received a death threat by email, which was sent to the Lydia Cacho Foundation (Fundación Lydia Cacho) based in Spain. Three days later on June 17, she received another death threat by telephone from an unknown man. Both threats referred to her work as a journalist and warned her to shut her mouth or she would be killed.

As complaints were filed with the Police both in Mexico and in Spain, Amnesty International released an Urgent Action asking members to write to the Mexican authorities to provide adequate protection to Lydia Cacho. Take online action for Lydia right now.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

No Justice for Women in DRC

Rape survivors gather to meet Amnesty International mission delegates, Kindu, Maniema province.

Two years ago, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the unprecedented step of extending a diplomatic visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in order to travel across the country and meet directly with rape survivors in the country’s war-torn eastern region.

The Secretary heard brutal, firsthand accounts of targeted sexual violence women had suffered as part of a systematic campaign by armed groups intended to terrorize civilians and maintain control.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

5th Anniversary Of Police Assaults On Women In Mexico

Rally for the women of Atenco © AI

Five years ago today, dozens of women were beaten, raped, and tortured sexually and psychologically by police after being detained following protests by a local peasant organization in San Salvador Atenco, near Mexico City. Despite years of legal battles, these brave survivors are still waiting for justice. None of the officials responsible for their abuse have been held accountable.

The good news is, we have a fresh opportunity to make a difference for the women of Atenco. Mexican President Felipe Calderón recently appointed a new Attorney General, Marisela Morales. As Mexico’s first-ever female Attorney General, with a history of being tough against organized crime, she is uniquely positioned to shake things up and set a new tone by standing against impunity. We need to tell her to finally ensure that the perpetrators won’t be allowed to get away with these violent abuses any longer.

Help us tell Mexico’s Attorney General that the Women of Atenco deserve to see justice done!

No Justice For Gang Rape Survivor Mukhtar Mai

Mukhtar Mai © Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday April 21, 2011 the Supreme Court of Pakistan issued a decision in the case of gang rape survivor Mukhtar Mai.  Mukhtar Mai was gang raped on the orders of a village council in June 2002 when her brother was wrongly accused of having an affair with a woman from a rival gang.

Following the incident, an Anti-Terrorism Court had sentenced six of the accused men to death. This sentence was overturned by the Lahore High Court which acquitted five of the accused and commuted the sentence of the sixth to life imprisonment.

Now the Supreme Court Pakistan’s highest legal authority has affirmed the judgment of the Lahore High Court and acquitted all but one of the accused. In an astounding decision, the Court argues that the accused enjoy a triple presumption of innocence without ever defining the term or explaining the burden of proof it entails.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

No More Rapes: End Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Haiti

After she moved into a makeshift shelter in Dessalines Square, Champ-de-Mars, Haiti, “Suzie” and her friend were gang raped in front of their shelter.

 “After they left I didn’t do anything….I don’t know where there is a clinic offering medical treatment for victims of violence.” 

Because she was blindfolded, Suzie didn’t go to the police because she didn’t know who the men were that raped her.  She told Amnesty International that the police patrol the streets, but she’s never seen them inside the camp.

In the Haitian camps there are many women and girls like Suzie. It is therefore vitally important that both the international community and the Haitian government take immediate action to treat the issue of violence against women as a priority for the humanitarian and reconstruction effort in Haiti. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST