Help Protect Human Rights and Fight Deadly Global Poverty

May 6, 2008

"Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. And it is perhaps the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equity, development and peace." – Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations

Did you know that one out of every three women around the world will be abused – physically, sexually or otherwise – during her lifetime? In some developing countries, rates of violence against women are as high as 70 percent, with social norms often giving women few options for escaping the cycle of abuse.

None of this has to be so. Violence against women is totally preventable, and there are proven strategies for combating its prevalence in the developing world. A new, bipartisan bill in the U.S. Congress – The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) – would, for the first time, comprehensively incorporate these strategies into U.S. foreign-aid programs. The bill (S.2279, H.R. 5927) devotes $1 billion to create a five-year strategy to combat violence against women around the world. (Click here to learn about IVAWA and how it would work.)

Violence against women not only fundamentally violates human dignity and destabilizes families and communities; it also serves as a significant deterrent in the fight to end deadly global poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Violence and abuse keep women from getting an education, working, and earning the income they need to lift their families out of poverty. Violence also poses a barrier to combating public-health epidemics that affect women and children disproportionately, like HIV/AIDS and malaria. In Nicaragua, for example, a study found that children of female victims of violence left school an average of four years earlier than other children. In India a survey revealed that women who experienced even a single incident of violence lost an average of seven working days: the difference between survival and starvation for their families.

The International Violence Against Women Act has bipartisan backing in both the House and the Senate, but in order to be acted upon in this Congress, it needs a large number of cosponsors. The Senate bill has only 16 and the House is just being introduced. Click here to send a message to your Senators and Representative, asking them to work to ensure IVAWA's passage, and – if they have not already done so – to sign on as cosponsors.