Rights groups say the passage of a recently revived bill would boost efforts to end gender-based violence around the world, potentially inspiring similar commitments from other countries.
The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) is garnering renewed support since being re-introduced to the House of Representatives last week by Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Nita Lowey (D-NY). IVAWA would make violence against women prevention and response a permanent foreign policy priority through the Office for Women’s Issues at the State Department.
Currently, the office exists only when a presidential administration wants it to exist, according to rights group Women Thrive Worldwide, and if Congress passes the bipartisan bill into law it cannot be disbanded based on presidential terms.
The last time IVAWA was introduced to Congress and the Senate, in February 2010, the bill never made it to a vote. American Jewish World Service President Ruth Messinger, in a press conference hosted by the AJWS, said the United States could lead the change in how the international community responds to violence against women if the bill were passed.
"We are, as the United States, the largest donor compared to other Western nations—Canada, Australia and Western Europe—that gives money and that makes it particularly important for us to target our aid to sensitive issues," she said. "If we say women's empowerment—action against violence against women—is important before a government can receive full funding, then countries will adopt similar policies."
Congresswoman Schakowsky added that passing the bill is not only imperative from a humanitarian standpoint; it is also important to US national security.
“It is no coincidence that the most dangerous places to be a woman are some of the most unstable places in the world," she said in Thursday afternoon's press conference. "Studies have proven that investing in women, protecting their fundamental rights strengthens entire communities. Combating violence against women is a critical step toward promoting regional and global stability.”