Last week the International Violence Against Women Act was introduced in both the House and the Senate. The bill, which is supported by both democrats and republicans, would put the global effort to end abuse against women, high up on the United States’ agenda. The bill would help as many as 20 low-income nations, where 175 million is to be provided in aid over five years. Many specifications are included in the bill such as the training of military and police forces overseas to help prevent violence against women in places like Afghanistan. It also calls for the United States to respond to violent and horrific acts against women in times of conflict, within three months.
Those who are meant to benefit most from the bill are women living in poverty or in countries in conflict. Women in parts of the world such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, often suffer from severe sexual abuse. Although this is of extreme importance in these countries, violence against women is not a concentrated issue. Statistics on violence are often vague and misconstrued because in many countries women cannot report violence, and even if they do, there is no possibility of reprisal. Even so, it is widely thought that about 70% of women worldwide have been either sexually or physically abused at one point in their lives.
Representative Bill Delahunt linked violence against women with terrorism, when he pointed out that places that serve as breeding grounds for terrorist organizations, often have the worst records in abuse against women as well. This may have been a driving reason for some politicians to support the bill, and if not, it should be. Promoting democracy includes promoting the role of women. You cannot have one without the other. Whether women are at home taking care of their families, of in high office in the government, or even running their own business, their health and wellbeing is essential to the wellbeing of the whole country. Violence against women should be a concern in its own right, but in case you need another reason, national security is it. If women have more power, extremists who degrade women will struggle to gain support. Without the power of women, a democracy cannot function. And without proper health and security, women cannot function.