Take Action: I-VAWA Reintroduced in Congress

By Michelle Freeman

On February 4th, amid the presidential budget frenzy and discussions of spending freezes, Senate and House Congressional champions announced the reintroduction of the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA). Lead sponsors of the IVAWA are Senator Kerry, Senator Boxer, Senator Snowe, Congressman Delahunt, Congressman Poe and Congresswoman Schakowsky. Together these members reaffirmed their commitment to ending violence against women by raising awareness, empowering women to become economically independent, and working with advocates on the ground to eliminate sexual violence as a war tactic for armed conflict. 

The IVAWA is the first comprehensive piece of legislation in the United States aimed at ending violence against women and girls around the world. It is a bill driven both by moral consciousness and the recognition that U.S. national security is tied to the depth of international violence and the value of human life. “In the last 50 years, more women have been killed because of their gender than all men engaged in arm conflict,” Senator Boxer stated, quoting Nicholas Kristof’s new book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

Passage of the IVAWA during the 111th session of Congress will be difficult and Representative Schakowsky challenged the audience of advocates to energize their grassroots networks, educate their Members of Congress, and demonstrate that the U.S., as a leader on human rights, must uphold its responsibilities and swiftly pass this bill. As advocates and engaged citizens we need to make our voices heard. Encourage your member of Congress to support the passage of IVAWA with JWI's action alert.

To create a global environment that dignifies women instead of battering them into silence, we must end violence within our own borders as well. In Washington advocates have begun drafting language for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Now in the process of its fourth facelift, we must reshape VAWA to address the evolving population of victims of violence - the staggering prevalence of dating violence and, with an aging population, the increase of elder abuse as well.  JWI is committed to the passage of VAWA and is working to expand both funding and aid in the development of programs that establish coordinated community responses. 

The road toward reauthorization will be difficult. We face two partisan chambers of Congress and a renewed focus on deficit reduction, but with the number of victims growing and service capacity diminishing, we cannot accept the status quo.  I believe that together as a united movement - local and national, service providers and policymakers - we can meet the challenge.

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