Landmark I-VAWA Legislation Introduced in U.S. Congress
Wednesday, November 07, 2007 4:46 PM

The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) was introduced in the U.S. Congress by Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) on 31 October 2007.  After two years of development led by Amnesty International USA, the Family Violence Prevention Fund and Women’s Edge Coalition, and in consultation with more than 150 U.S.-based experts, including The Advocates for Human Rights, and 40 international women’s groups, the landmark legislation provides funding of $1 billion over 5 years to combat violence against women and girls on a global scale through international assistance programs.

The funding would be applied toward international programs that prevent violence, support health programs and survivor services, encourage legal accountability and a change of public attitudes, promote access to economic opportunity projects and education, and better address violence against women in humanitarian situations. The legislation would deal with preventing violence in all of its forms, including honor killings, bride burnings, acid burnings, dowry deaths, genital mutilation, mass rapes in war, or domestic violence.

Specifically, the bill would develop strategies in countries for U.S. programs to address violence against women and girls. It creates the first high-level U.S. State Department office working explicitly on violence against women, raising prevention of gender-focused violence to a diplomatic priority. The coordinator would seek to integrate best practices in violence prevention across the government's diplomatic and foreign assistance work, while adding financial support for local health programs or reform efforts.

For example, the legislation funds activities to integrate training by local women's groups or NGOs to change social attitudes that condone violence against women and girls into humanitarian assistance programs or to train lawyers and police on how to deal with domestic violence cases in legal reform programs. Importantly, it also supports local efforts by bolstering the work of women's organizations overseas that are already working to end violence against women in their countries.

Of key interest, the legislation would also decrease potential sexual exploitation and abuse by U.S. humanitarian workers, military personnel, military contractors and police involved in peacekeeping operations by creating training programs to prevent such abuse and a complaints mechanism for reporting problems.

In 2005, Amnesty International USA, the Family Violence Prevention Fund and Women's Edge Coalition convened meetings to develop the legislation, recognizing the need for a comprehensive worldwide approach, rather than a country-by-country approach or one that looks at separate challenges depending on the form the violence takes.

The organizations offered their praise and gratitude to Senators Biden and Lugar for their leadership on the issue.

For more information about I-VAWA, including what action you can take to help pass this historic legislation, please see the Amnesty International website here.

Excerpts compiled from: Human Rights, Women's and Anti-Violence Groups Praise Legislation to Combat Global Violence against Women, Joint Press Release, Amnesty International USA, Family Violence Prevention Fund and the Women's Edge Coalition, 1 November 2007.