IRC Backs Critical Legislation to Address Global Violence Against Women and Girls; Calls on US Congress to Quickly Pass It
The International Rescue Committee is urging Congress to move quickly to consider and pass landmark legislation, being introduced today, that authorizes more resources to combat horrific levels of abuse and exploitation of women around the world and endorses violence prevention as a US foreign policy priority.
“The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) is a comprehensive and robust piece of legislation that will focus resources on programs that have proven to be effective in preventing and responding to attacks against women and girls,” says Heidi Lehmann, who oversees IRC programs that address violence against women. “IVAWA has the potential to bring tangible improvements to the lives of women and girls. It is not simply about denouncing violence, it is about ending it.”
IRC teams have seen firsthand the devastating effect that conflict and disaster have on women and girls. In some of the most violent conflicts of the past decade, including Sierra Leone, Sudan, Pakistan and Congo, they have witnessed unimaginable acts of cruelty and brutality against women and girls and have provided tens of thousands of survivors with critical and lifesaving assistance.
Despite the rising attention that world leaders have given to this issue, the international community remains slow to respond, often waiting for atrocities to make headlines before acting. This often comes at the cost of women’s and girls’ lives.
Lehmann says the IRC is extremely encouraged that this bipartisan bill authorizes funding specifically for addressing such violence in humanitarian settings and would require the US government to respond quickly to outbreaks of violence against women and girls in crisis zones.
In the wake of the devastation in Haiti, this issue could not be more critical or timely.
“Violence against girls and women in Haiti was already a significant problem before the earthquake hit,” says Robyn Yaker, an IRC emergency response coordinator in Port au Prince. “The complete devastation of the capital, the scarcity of shelter and basic services and the weakened rule of law all expose women and girls to additional risks.”
Legislation like IVAWA would ensure that in such emergency situations, steps to prevent violence against women and girls would be a priority in US-funded responses.
The bill, which was introduced in both the House and the Senate, has the support of over 100 international and local organizations that have come together to champion the measure.
“Too often we turn our back because problems seem too overwhelming,” Lehmann says. “This is an opportunity for the U.S. to set an example for the international community. Whether it is during a violent conflict, a natural disaster or in peacetime, in Congo, Haiti or Sierra Leone, violence against women and girls hurts us all. We must not turn away.”
Lehmann says Congress should take immediate action to make the IVAWA into law, not just because the brutality that women have suffered is so great, but because the potential of investing in them is so enormous.
Sign our petition calling on members of Congress to support the lnternational Violence Against Women Act and to pass the bill quickly.