Stopping violence against women around the globe.

By Kristi Jo Lewis of Portland, Oregon. KJ is the co-founder of Global Sistergoods, and a 2010 class member of Emerge Oregon.

Today, March 8, is International Women's Day, a day to recognize women's political and social achievements. It is also a day to recognize how far we have yet to go in the global fight for women's rights.

According to Amnesty International, one of every three women worldwide has been physically or sexually abused during her lifetime, with rates of domestic violence reaching 70 percent in some countries. We know the ways violence against women can be perpetrated: rape, domestic violence, acid burnings, so-called “honor killings.”

The United States has yet to ratify the UN Treaty for the Rights of Women (CEDAW), but I'm glad to know that a bill (S. 2279) has been re-introduced (as S. 2982) to address violence against women globally. Known as the International Violence Against Women Act, the bill was originally introduced during the 110th Congress by Senators Joe Biden and Richard Lugar, but didn’t come to a vote before Congress adjourned.

The I-VAWA was reintroduced on February 4 by bipartisan teams in both the House and Senate. Amnesty International, Women Thrive Worldwide, and the Family Violence Prevention Fund deserve kudos for helping to revive this bill.

Here’s the deal: I-VAWA directs the U.S. government to create a comprehensive, 5-year strategy to reduce violence in 10-20 diverse countries that have severe levels of violence against women and girls. To achieve this goal, the Act allocates more than $1 billion in U.S. assistance over 5 years and makes ending violence against women and girls a U.S. diplomatic priority.

Importantly, the bill also expands U.S. support and capacity for overseas nongovernmental organizations - particularly women’s nongovernmental organizations - working to end violence against women and girls in their own countries.This is the first time violence against women will be a diplomatic priority, and will be addressed in a coordinated and integrated way. It also requires that in areas of armed conflict where the U.S. is aware of mass violence against women and girls (such as Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo), the U.S. government will have to act.

Learn more specifics on this Amnesty International page, or read the legislation yourself..

So far, Rep. David Wu is the only member of our Oregon delegation to co-sponsor this legislation. I'm not sure where the rest of them stand. Let them know where you do, on this issue vital to the safety of women and girls.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    The #1 violent use of women around the globe is as breeding machines. Evangelicals in this country promote it and export it. You can make a difference there by speaking out against them here. Rather than simply signing onto "everyone should stop beating their wife" measures, is Wu prepared to end those that promote this abuse's tax exempt status?

    Fortunately it doesn't have to be as contentious as all that. Global population control could be achieved, and much abuse towards women ended, if every woman had a basic education that allows her to fully function in her society.

    Thanks for the column. Glad the powers at BO deigned to publish it. A friend tried to submit one a few months back when the SOS spoke on the Cairo population goals, and related it to violence towards women. That speech was important, demonstrating that it isn't a fringe issue. Thanks again for the reminder, and keeping it in the liberal eye.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)


    The #1 violent use of women around the globe is as breeding machines. Evangelicals in this country promote it and export it.

    Bob T:

    Figures that the first response points to American Christian leaders as if they are the leading enemies of women. Fact is that most Muslim nations, particularly those in the Third World, are the worst places for women for a number of reasons. The Left is very reluctant to really take a stand on this because to do so would be an act of, well, gosh, "dishonoring" diversity and trashing someone else's culture.

    You'll never admit or acknowledge or even realize that most, if not all, of the Muslim world's problem with the West, which is liberal even when run by so-called "conservatives", is because of our "threat" to the future of women in their world. Any talk of foreign policy, etc. is just a cover. Read what the Qtub of Egypt wrote after his few years in America in the late 40s (his writings inspired the movements that led to Al Qaeda etc). He hated this place (and, presumably, the west in general) because of how liberated it is compared to back home. He was determined to create a movement that would resist such liberation coming to the Mideast could be spread not so much by foreign policy but by plain, simple trade and free exchange of information.

    Besides, those who complain that the US has not signed the UN Treaty for the Rights of Women are kidding themselves. The UN will never do a damned thing about abuse of women in these countries. Did you ever see the footage of women being executed in the Kabul soccer stadium for being caught listening to music, or attending a clandestine school? What was the solution? Sanctions? And that was only one country. I really doubt that you people are going to risk offending those countries by telling them that they have to change their ways to bring their societies out of the 15th Century. So pound your chest again, and target an American evangelical. That's so easy to do, and safe. If you lived in Europe you would be nowhere in sight whenever there's a time to stand up to the real threats to a free society.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

  • Michael Pitts-Campbell (unverified)

    Let's just do this for the U.S. (a big enough problem and our responsibility) and lead by example. You are NOT going to have any impact on the cultures who treat women as property and why would you even WANT to change an indigenous culture? Wouldn't that be Western cultural imperialism?

  • KenRay (unverified)

    Thank you, Bob, for saying that. I have long said that the only way to get the Wahibi-minded types in the Mideast to make peace would be to become like them: A theocracy that enslaves women and denies freedoms.

    That being said, there is plenty we can do locally that doesn't involve the United Nations. My wife and I are strong supporters of Clackamas Women's Services. They, and other shelters in the region, are non-profits that do work that needs to be done and always running on a shoestring budget.

    Despite my political differences with Dave Hunt, I have to give a shout out to him as well as Martha Schrader for their support of CWS over the years.

    I hope we can all share in common contempt of domestic violence in any country, but there is plenty of need right here. Unfortunately.

  • Dan Johnson (unverified)

    Thanks for bringing these points up Kristi. A lot of really good legislation doesn't get much attention, and IVAWA deserves longer look.

    I've worked to promote it as well, and wanted to mention a couple of things about it. It uses money efficiently by tying its efforts into situations where we are already providing foreign aid. Additionally, it focuses on programs created and run by the local people, which does a lot to address concerns of cultural imperialism. In many cases, these programs address issues such as providing adequate care for victims in local medical facilities, training authorities to acknowledge and respond to complaints, and building a community of support so that victims have a better opportunity of being protected if they come forward.

    Certainly, the cynic can find many complaints for any program that delivers a significant impact, but this legislation could do so much for so many that, at the very least, it is worth looking into further. Please make phone calls to your legislators requesting co-sponsorship if you agree with the goals.

  • Beemage (unverified)
    <h2>The only reason David Wu is interested in the bill is that it mitigates his attempted rape in college!He tried to rape a girl and placed a pillow over face to muffle her screams. David Wu is a disgusting hypocrit.</h2>
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