October 30, 2013

Milwaukee Courier

Legislatively Speaking: The International Violence Against Women Act

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

In early October, I participated in a peace conference alongside nearly two hundred leaders and legislators from around the nation and world, through a partnership of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), Women Legislators Lobby (WiLL), and the EastWest Institute Parliamentarian Network for Conflict Prevention. During the conference, we talked about a number of pressing issues; we identified the issue of violence against women worldwide as one of our greatest concerns. Collectively, we agreed on the importance of continuing effort to pass The International Violence Against Women Act, a proposed piece of legislation that would for the first time place gender-based violence at the center of the U.S. foreign policy and international aid agenda. Thankfully, the Coalition to End Violence Against Women and Girls Globally is pushing Congress to reintroduce and pass this vital legislation in 2013.

From Afghanistan and Mexico to India and the United States, violence against women destabilizes families and communities, blocks economic progress, and undermines women’s efforts to create better lives for themselves and their families. The United Nations estimates that one in every three women will experience violence at some point in her life with rates reaching up to 70% in some countries.  The terrible consequences of this epidemic of violence rob communities of the contributions and talent of half their populations.  Violence takes the lives of millions of women and girls, and denies countless others their dignity and their right to live safe, productive lives.  No country is immune.  Violence crosses all national borders and affects women of all ages, social groups, religions, and economic, racial and ethnic groups. Consider all the recent gun violence that has transpired in Milwaukee. Women, mothers, daughters, friends, and children were all victims of senseless acts of violence in our community. I am here to speak for them and stop tragedies like these from continuing to occur!

If passed, the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) would establish gender-based violence prevention programs and create a response lens through which the U.S. government’s foreign aid could be redistributed to better respond to and ultimately reduce levels of violence against women internationally. Worldwide, health care providers could be trained to recognize signs of violence and know how to lend support to girls. Furthermore, institutions like the U.S. Agency for International Development could assist in putting protections in place to ensure that girls can go to school safely. Additionally, this act could help organizations, like those working to change the attitudes of men and boys about violence, be more successful in their efforts. Undoubtedly, this act seeks to address the issue of violence against women on many fronts, an approach that is need to make even a dent in decreasing the massive body of international violence against women. In Milwaukee, this act could aid existing institutions that work with women and families to increase their effectiveness so they can better address issues like domestic violence. Through enhancing our institutions, we enhance the quality of our community. By educating so little as just one person on the dangers of violence against women, everyone is safer. These issues cannot be kept silent in our community! 

Importantly, investing in women makes sense. When women and girls thrive, societies are more likely to prosper, reduce rates of HIV and AIDS, decrease child and maternal mortality, and increase participatory and democratic governments– all of which makes U.S. assistance dollars go farther. U.S. security – and the security of all countries -- is only enhanced when the status of women is elevated.  So addressing violence against women is crucial to global development and stability, and by extension, to U.S. security and long-term peace. Women are a crucial piece of the puzzle.

We must all make our voices heard. So today, I call on members of Congress and Senate to help me in doing more to stop violence against women internationally through co-sponsoring the I-VAWA Act of 2013. It is imperative to me that women and girls everywhere are able to live lives free from targeted acts of violence. “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14). As always, I am here to serve!