Human Rights Groups Want US Leadership in Fighting Violence Against Women
Human Rights Groups Want US Leadership in Fighting Violence Against Women
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According to the World Health Organization, one in three women in the world will experience violence in her lifetime.  Human Rights groups are urging members of Congress to pass the International Violence Against Women Act.  The Act would require a commitment by the U.S. government to address and end violence against women and girls globally.  It would fund a five-year program to reduce violence in countries where the problem is most serious.  

Brutality against women

Some of the most innocent and helpless become victims of the most brutal crimes.
"I feel pain in my heart.  I cannot go back because of what they did to me," Ntamitonde ( rape victim) sadly recalls, "Three people raped me in front of my son."

Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo raped this woman, took her clothes and burned her house, leaving her homeless and shamed. 

She is one of hundreds of thousands of women in the DRC who have been caught in a civil war and sexually assaulted.

Advocates say more must be done to address the problem

"The United States condemns these attacks and all those who commit them and abet them.  And we state to the world that those who attack civilian populations using systematic rape are guilty of crimes against humanity," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton states.

In August, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged more than $17 million to fight  sexual violence in Congo.  But human rights groups say the United States must do more.

Actress and UN goodwill ambassador Nicole Kidman told members of Congress that women around the world are victims of rape, human trafficking and domestic violence.
"Violence against women is not prosecuted because it is not a top government and urgent social priority," she says, "We can change this."

Kidman and human rights groups are asking Congress to take up and pass the International Violence Against Women Act.

The bill was first introduced in 2007 by then Senator Joe Biden.  It would provide funding to help end violence against women and girls in developing countries.

Democratic Congressman Bill Delahunt says he and other lawmakers plan on reintroducing the legislation soon.

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If passed, it would provide funding for assault victims including health care. The dollars would also provide training for local police in preventing violence against women. 

Human rights groups would also like the U.S. to partner with grassroots organizations that educate and empower women in developing countries.

Sina Vann works with victims of abuse in Cambodia.  She was sold to a house of prostitution in the capital, Phnom Penh, when she was 13. "I was told to find them some money each day. If I didn't do that, I would be electrocuted," she explains.
She was held captive and tortured for more than two years until a human rights group rescued her.  She is now helping other victims learn new skills and start a new life.

Melanne Verveer is an ambassador at large at the US State Department. "It is critical that education and economic viability are absolutely important tools to address this problem," she said. 

She adds, violence against women is also an issue of national security. "The correlation is clear. Where women are oppressed, governance is weak and extremism is more likely to take hold," she asserts.
Human rights groups and the women they protect will have to wait and see if there is enough support in Congress to make the bill a reality.