Human rights activists have long known what much of the world is starting to recognize and acknowledge: violence against women and girls is a human rights violation of epidemic proportions that touches every corner of the globe, impacting the ability of women and girls to access the full spectrum of their human rights.
Amnesty activists and our many coalition partners have worked for years to build momentum behind the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), a critical piece of legislation aimed at ensuring the United States does its part to end gender-based violence globally through its diplomatic and foreign assistance work. And thanks to our efforts, Members of Congress are taking notice.
Not only has IVAWA received record-levels of bipartisan support this year, and not only were key IVAWA provisions successfully included in the House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act last month thanks to Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY), but tomorrow, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee led by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) will hold a subcommittee hearing calling on Congress and the world to take action to combat violence and discrimination against women.
Congress must utilize the tools it has at its fingertips to give the United States the ability to prevent and end discrimination and violence against women and girls, not only through passing IVAWA but through ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in the Senate. CEDAW offers countries a blueprint to achieve progress for women and girls and overcome discrimination. Appallingly, the United States is one of only 7 countries in the world that has not ratified CEDAW.
Tomorrow’s hearing will discuss IVAWA, CEDAW, and the global gender-based violence crisis. The hearing will include NGO witnesses working on the ground to stop violence and support survivors, top U.S. government officials tasked with overseeing U.S. programming around the world to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, and female Senators who will share the stories of individual women who have experienced violence in some of the most horrific ways imaginable.
The Senators will share the stories that grip the headlines, like the two teenage girls in India who were gang-raped and murdered in late May, and the nearly 300 abducted Nigerian schoolgirls who have yet to be returned home.
But the Senators will also share the stories of the less visible, the stories of the 1 in 3 women worldwide who will experience violence in her lifetime, such as Norma Cruz, a women’s human rights defender in Guatemala who Amnesty continues to campaign for as she receives death threats for her work documenting cases of violence against women and fighting for justice.
Congress can make a difference for Norma and for women and girls around the world; through IVAWA and CEDAW, it has the tools to do its part to end gender-based violence and root out discrimination. But Congress won’t act unless you use the most powerful tool of all: your voice!
Your Members of Congress need to hear from you. Tell Congress to pass IVAWA, encourage your Senators to ratify CEDAW and attend or tune in to the hearing to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to continue to elevate such a critical topic.
Lives depend upon it.