Senior International Policy Advocate, Futures Without Violence
Over the past few weeks, an appalling story has been making the rounds about two young sisters in rural India sentenced by an all-male village council to be gang raped and publicly humiliated.
While the details of the incident are cloudy at best, and have been contested by the village council, what we know for sure is that these incidents happen on a daily basis across the globe. They happen in Nigeria. In Afghanistan. In Iran. And yes, in India.
One out of every three women globally will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.
In some countries, the statistics are even bleaker. In many countries, sexual violence against women and girls is often used as a form of control and coercion. While rape as a form of punishment may not be condoned by governments, small ‘courts’—often composed of un-elected men governing over the lives of citizens in small villages—can dole out verdicts and punishments with little oversight. There is little recourse from law enforcement as well, who have been known to turn a blind eye to these human rights violations and injustices.
So, what’s the solution?
We wholeheartedly believe that the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) would help combat these type of atrocities across the globe by working from the top-down to change the law of the land, and the bottom-up to change social norms that perpetuate gender-based violence.
The bill recognizes the important role that community leaders, faith-based organizations, and village elders play in the prevention of violence at a grassroots level. These are the individuals the community turns to for guidance and advice, and they can be a significant catalyst for change.
In countries that lack effective legal frameworks to address gender-based violence, it is these elders and community leaders whom have the standing and authority to address and reverse these harmful practices.
IVAWA was re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (House) and the U.S. Senate (Senate) in March of 2015. To date, the bill has 37 bi-partisan co-sponsors in the House and 23 bi-partisan co-sponsors in the Senate.
But these numbers are far below the count we need to pass this life-saving bill.
If we are dismayed, alarmed, and shocked at stories of violence perpetrated against women and girls around the world, then we must pass the type of legislation that will create long-term, sustainable change.
Now’s the time to ask your members of Congress to support and pass IVAWA, and invest in solutions that will prevent these senseless atrocities against women and girls.
- Learn more about the International Violence Against Women Act
- Urge Congress to support and pass the International Violence Against Women Act now
Leila has worked on the promotion and protection of human rights and women’s rights at the State Department, Congress, at the White House and at the UN. Over the past decade she has worked on the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act in the United States, chaired the National Working Group on the Ratification of CEDAW in the United States, and engaged in advocacy efforts for the passing of the International Violence Against Women Act. Currently, she is the Senior International Policy Advocate at Futures Without Violence where she leads the international policy work on child marriage, ending human trafficking at home and abroad, promoting survivor engagement in the anti-human trafficking work, and advancing women’s empowerment and engagement at the peace table. Leila holds a law degree from Wake Forest University School of Law and a Masters in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia.
YWCA’s Week Without Violence is an annual campaign that takes place nationally and communities across the country to end violence in all of its forms and wherever it occurs. As the largest network of domestic service providers in the United States, YWCA is focusing our efforts on ending domestic violence – NOW. Everyday YWCA addresses the root causes and immediate needs associated with domestic violence. As we mark our 20th annual Week Without Violence, we invite you to join us. To learn more visit www.ywca.org/wwv and join the conversation with #EndDVNow.