We all know how unfortunately easy it is to find innumerable instances of violence against women occurring on a daily basis in every part of the world. A three-year old rape survivor in Afghanistan, hundreds of abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria, the unsolved murder of 15 year-old María Isabel Veliz Franco in Guatemala, and astonishing rates of sexual violence in Egypt, to name a few.
Violence is horrific wherever it occurs and in whatever context. It is particularly abhorrent in the devastating impact it has on the lives of 1 in 3 women around the world.
While some of the appalling stories of gender-based violence show fragile signs of hope, like the recent commitment by the Afghan authorities to ensure the safety of ten-year old Brishna from a so-called “honor killing”, countless do not. It is also easy to forget the untold or unreported stories hiding behind the repugnant reality that violence against women remains the most widespread human rights violation. This violence is an impediment to human rights for all.
The stories of gender-based violence, both the ones that make headlines and ones that are never shared, should remind us that the best story is always the one that never happens at all.
A permanent end to the relentless cases of violence is what unites us during the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, a time when activists from around the world come together to campaign for an end to this human rights abuse violation once and for all.
But we won’t see the end of this epidemic until we put in place a solution. And a critical component of that solution is the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), a bill that makes the elimination of gender-based violence a top U.S. diplomatic and foreign assistance priority by ensuring the U.S. has a comprehensive strategy in place to secure the safety and rights of women and girls across the world.
Ending gender-based violence isn’t simple; it requires a multi-sectoral, all-hands-on deck approach. IVAWA would support health programs and survivor services, alongside judicial reform and legal protections; the bill includes law enforcement training, education, and economic opportunities, and would address deeply rooted gender inequalities and discrimination that are the underlying causes of violence by encouraging critical social norm change. Passing IVAWA would position the United States as an important ally for millions of women and girls worldwide whose right to live free from violence is under daily threat.
Amnesty activists have been diligently working to get Congress to pass IVAWA since its inception in 2007. Throughout that time we’ve seen progress, though none can quite compare to the great strides the bill has made during the current session of Congress, thanks to Amnesty’s activists and our partners in the Coalition to End Violence Against Women and Girls Globally.
Across the country, our member leaders, legislative coordinators, local and student groups have taken action to raise awareness in their communities of the global gender-based violence epidemic and elevate the profile of IVAWA with Members of Congress. And your representatives have responded.
Through your advocacy, including countless online actions and phone calls, meetings with your representatives in your state and in Washington DC, we have achieved the most bipartisan support the bill has ever had, seen IVAWA highlighted at Congressional hearings, and seen core elements of the bill included in key pieces of legislation like the National Defense Authorization Act.
Now is not the time to stop. If anything, the 16 Days should inspire us to make one last push for IVAWA before the end of the year. Your commitment to ending gender-based violence is more important than ever before.
As the current session of Congress is coming to a close, right now is our last chance to demand that lawmakers support IVAWA. While Congress may not pass IVAWA this year, we must still push as hard as we can today to ensure it closes out the year with a record number of cosponsors, ensuring it has strong support behind it going into the next Congressional session. And that level of support will only be achieved if you take action for IVAWA.
While IVAWA isn’t a cure-all, it is an important part of the solution and has potential to help us eliminate gender-based violence. There are regrettably multiple cases you can take action on during the 16 Days of Activism, including IVAWA. Please do so. Let’s strive to put this campaign out of business in our lifetime.
Thank you for all you do to push for an end to violence against women and girls around the world, not just during the 16 Days, but everyday.