Violence against women is an epidemic of global proportions. It ranges from domestic violence to rape, from acid burnings to so-called honor killings, and it threatens one out of every three women worldwide, with rates reaching up to 70 percent in some countries.
As Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I recently joined efforts to tackle this egregious problem by co-sponsoring the
International Violence Against Women Act, S.2982.
Violence against women is often used as a tool of war, such as what is now occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Additionally, women who are abused frequently die or face serious injury because of abuse and are at much greater risk of dying in pregnancy, having children who die in childhood and of contracting HIV/AIDS.
Violence against women also is a major cause of poverty. Typically, women are much more likely to be among the world's poorest, often living on less than a dollar a day. Violence reduces their standard of living by preventing them from accessing education or earning the income they need to lift their families out of poverty.
In Nicaragua, for example, a study found that children of female victims of violence left school an average of four years earlier than other children. In India, it has been found that women who experienced even a single incident of violence lost an average of seven working days.
Encouraging greater economic opportunity and earning capacity not only makes it possible for women to escape violent situations, but it also reduces the likelihood of abuse by improving the woman's status within the household. At the same time, greater economic opportunity would go a long way to reducing poverty because women often use the money we provide in foreign assistance to invest in education or to grow food.
S. 2982 has the support of approximately 200 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). The bill
directs the State Department to create a comprehensive five-year strategy to reduce violence against women and girls in up to 20 countries and to provide vital funds to foster programs that address violence in a coordinated way. It would do this by reforming legal and health sectors, by changing social norms and attitudes that condone rape and abuse, and by improving education and economic opportunities for women and girls.
Violence has a profound effect on the lives of women and girls, and on all communities around the world.I am committed to putting an end to violence against women worldwide and that means we need to provide the assistance and resources that are necessary to achieve this goal.