Why Won’t Congress Pass the International Violence Against Women Act?

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Supporters of the Violence Against Women Act dance in Farragut Square as part of the V-DAY’s One Billion Rising dance party and rally to stop violence against women (Photo Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call).

Supporters of the Violence Against Women Act dance in Farragut Square as part of the V-DAY’s One Billion Rising dance party and rally to stop violence against women (Photo Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call).

As November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, approaches and the International Violence Against Women Act is poised for reintroduction in the U.S. Congress, the time is now to prioritize ending violence against women and girls worldwide.

Violence against women takes many forms, including rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and acid attacks, to name just a few. It’s a global human rights crisis that exacerbates instability and insecurity around the world.

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Violence Against Women: When Will Nicaragua Wake Up?

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There were over 32,000 complaints of domestic violence and sexual abuse in Nicaragua in 2012 (Photo Credit: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images).

There were over 32,000 complaints of domestic violence and sexual abuse in Nicaragua in 2012 (Photo Credit: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images).

By Liza Konczal, Amnesty USA’s Nicaragua Country Specialist

Less than 2 years after passing a law against violence against women (Law 779), the National Assembly of Nicaragua has weakened the protection it offers.

Near the end of September 2013, the Assembly voted to retract a part of the law that bans mediation in abuse cases. Women’s organizations in Nicaragua had worked arduously to reject mediation in the law, because the result could be re-victimization. Survivors of domestic abuse require protection of the law, not a chance to ‘work it out’ with their abusers.

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Loud and Clear: Women’s Rights, In Action!

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Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda  (right) attends the 2008 Benefactrix Ball presented by YMCA at the Beverly Hills Hotel (Photo Credit: Leon Bennett/WireImage).

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda (right) attends the 2008 Benefactrix Ball presented by YMCA at the Beverly Hills Hotel (Photo Credit: Leon Bennett/WireImage).

As we reflected on 50 Days of Action for Women and Girls and its themes, including early marriage, violence against women, and sexual and reproductive health, we got to wondering: What does all this integrated human rights talk look like in practice?

So we turned to a woman who walks the talk and leads change herself, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda. Take a look at her examples of women’s participation in claiming their own rights. Then take action on an issue important to you, and join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay connected. (Don’t forget to join the World YWCA’s efforts, too!)

In your experience, what does participation mean in the context of women’s rights in your country?

For women to participate, it [is] important that they know and are aware of their rights, have the social empowerment to engage and the space to exercise their voice. Women’s community groups, organizations and networks…have provided the platforms for such participation.

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A Firsthand Account of Ongoing Women’s Crisis in Colombia

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Stop Violence Against Women in Colombia

Sign reading “No more violence against women” at a 2010 demonstration in Medellin, Colombia. ©AFP/Getty Images

When I woke last Friday, it was to the sound of a woman’s screams in the street. I looked out the window and saw a woman being attacked by a male, and she was screaming for the police. My husband and I called the police. They were on the scene in 5 minutes. The man fled and together with the police we talked the woman through the attack, the police filed a report, and we tried to help the woman recover her lost cell phone and her nerves.

From the very beginning, the day was a stark reminder about the global scourge of violence against women, and about the duty of the state to hold those crimes to account.

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The Worst Place to Be a Woman in the G20

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Indian women protest

According to TrustLaw's latest poll, India is the worst place to be a woman among G20 states (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)

This week the G20, or the group of the world’s major economies, is convening in Mexico to consider progress and define new commitments toward economic growth and a shared agenda for the world’s wealthiest nations.

Ahead of the meetings, I participated in an expert poll conducted by TrustLaw Women, a project of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, to determine which G20 countries are the best and worst for women.

Our analysis–that reflects the views of 370 gender specialists from five continents and most of the G20 nations–found Canada to be the best G20 country for women. The worst? Perhaps a surprise: Not Saudi Arabia, but India.

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Women’s Health Under Threat in Turkey

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Turkish feminists protest in Istanbul

Turkish feminists protest outside Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's office in Istanbul on May 27, 2012. BULENT KILIC/AFP/GettyImages

By Howard Eissenstat, Turkey Country Specialist

I guess Turkey’s Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdoğan, wanted to change the subject.

In May, Turkey’s ruling AK Party was busily trying to explain away its culpability in the massacre of civilians in the Roboski/Uludere airstrike by implying that, since the victims were smugglers, they may have simply gotten what they deserved. Even the largely cowed Turkish press sensed that the government had staked out a position so outlandish that it was only embarrassing itself.

Then with characteristic bravado, Erdoğan connected the massacre of Kurdish villagers to women’s reproductive health.  “Every abortion is an Uludere,” he said to one delegation of supporters.  Suddenly women’s reproductive health has become the major issue of the day, not the massacre of civilians by Turkish armed forces. As Andrew Finkel notes in his sharp analysis, “With that single stroke he maneuvered a Turkish woman’s right to choose into a place it had never been: at the center of the political agenda. This is a mistake that may have tragic consequences.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

I Stand With…the Right to Health

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planned parenthoodBefore you keep reading, let’s be clear: this blog is about the universal human right to the highest attainable standard of health, the package of services it takes to be well—and the ability to afford it.  It’s also about the implications of the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to stop providing grants to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for breast cancer screening.  Because too often, women’s health falls victim to agendas that prevent women from exercising their human rights.  It’s about the big picture.

According to Planned Parenthood, the vast majority of its services are the provision of information and education about health, well-being and sexuality; prevention of and response to gender-based violence; prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS; and family planning counseling and supplies. These services are provided to both men and women, of all ages, of all income levels. They are part of basic health care.

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Total Abortion Bans In Latin America Risk Women's Lives

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nicaragua woman doctor

Countries around the world that strictly deny women’s access to abortion, including when such access could save their lives and health, also tend to have the highest rates of maternal mortality.

Most Latin American countries criminalize abortions, forcing girls and women to resort to unsafe, clandestine abortions.  According to the World Health Organization, “Death due to complications of abortion is not uncommon, and is one of the principal causes of maternal mortality” and of an estimated 300,000 hospitalizations.

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