I-VAWA? WE-VAWA: We All Must Do Our Part to End Violence Against Women and Girls

November 20, 2014
One out of three women worldwide will be physically, sexually, or otherwise abused during her lifetime. In some countries, it’s as many as seven in ten. Violence against women is a human rights violation that devastates lives, fractures communities and prevents women from fully contributing to the economic development of their countries. Take a minute to think about the things we do every day: go to work, go to school, provide food for ourselves and for our families. We generally do not equate these tasks with putting ourselves in danger. But, that’s not the case everywhere. Often, the perpetrators of violence against women and girls commit that violence while women are on their way to work or to collect food and water, or while girls are on their way to school—that is, if they are allowed to go to school at all. The harm caused by violence against women and girls extends beyond the individuals subject to violence, seriously undermining economic stability. When one in three women face violence, one in three women face substantial obstacles to regular participation in the workforce. Violence against women and girls also poses an alarming public health concern, increasing maternal mortality and morbidity, contributing to the spread of HIV and leading to fatalities both directly through an attack or indirectly through suicide in the wake of an attack. The scope of violence against women and girls around the world is overwhelming. Often, we face barriers to addressing the problem caused simply by our own paralysis: where do we begin? The International Violence Against Women Act is a good start. The bill, known as I-VAWA (H.R. 3571/S. 2307), would provide concrete tools to boost efforts to change the circumstances that lead to violence against women and girls. I-VAWA builds on efforts of the Violence Against Women Act, which made major strides in the fight to prevent and respond to violence in the United States. I-VAWA codifies existing U.S. support for programs around the globe that help prevent violence, support health and survivor services, encourage legal accountability and change in public attitudes, promote access to economic opportunity and education for women and girl and support existing similar initiatives worldwide. Many of these efforts take effect at the local level and are led by individuals and groups working to end violence against the women in girls in their community and in their country. Furthermore, I-VAWA would make the pervasive issue of violence against women a major diplomatic priority. Gender equality is a prerequisite to sustainable global development and security. Investment in the safety of women and girls is not only a moral imperative; it is a down-payment on the stability and well-being of the United States. Jewish tradition teaches all people are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of the divine, and that our health and our bodies are gifts from God that we are to protect and nurture (Genesis 1:27). Violence committed against women and girls is an affront to the sanctity and wholeness of a person’s body and health, an abhorrent violation of human rights and fundamental dignity. We must continue to fight violence against women everywhere, whether within our own borders or across the globe. Start here: Urge your Senators and Representatives to support I-VAWA today.

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