Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced yesterday the International Violence Against Women Act. The bill was written with the input and expert advice of over 100 NGOs focusing on gender-based violence, human rights, health care, international development and aid, including the Women’s Edge Coalition, the Feminist Majority, Amnesty International, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, and Human Rights Watch.
The bill includes three major provisions to fight violence against women. First, it would create a central Office for Women’s Global Initiatives to coordinate US policies, programs, and resources that deal with women’s issues. Second, it requires a 5-year comprehensive strategy to fight violence against women in targeted countries and provides $172 million a year to support programs that fight violence against women. Last, the bill mandates training, reporting mechanisms and a system for dealing with women and girls afflicted by violence during humanitarian, conflict and post-conflict operations.
The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) is an unprecedented effort by the United States to address violence against women globally. It directs the U.S. government to create a comprehensive, 5-year strategy to reduce violence in 10-20 diverse countries identified as having severe levels of violence against women.
To achieve this goal, the act authorizes more than $1 billion over five years in U.S. aid to support international programs that prevent violence. Specifically, the money will support health programs and survivor services, encourage legal accountability and a change of public attitudes, promote access to economic opportunity projects and education, and better address violence against women in humanitarian situations. The act provides for U.S. training of foreign security forces on violence against woman and girls. It also encourages U.S. collaboration and funding of institutions like the United Nations working to end violence against women and girls. It emphasizes support and capacity-building for overseas women’s organizations working to prevent violence.
The I-VAWA also makes the crisis of violence against women a top diplomatic priority. It creates an Office of Global Women’s Initiatives in the State Department to coordinate all efforts, including aid, to combat violence. It also creates the Office of Global Women’s Development at the Agency for International Development to integrate violence prevention into current foreign assistance activities.
The text of the Act is available here.