March 8 is International Women’s Day and it is an important opportunity to promote women’s rights and equal participation in society. And we have a ways to go.
Acts of violence against women near and far are front-page stories. Female health workers offering polio vaccinations were murdered in northern Nigeria. A young Pakistani school girl, standing up for education for girls, was brutally shot in the head. A 23-year-old woman from India was gang raped on a bus. And in our own state, women are too often victims of domestic violence. This past fall, Tensia Martinez Richard, a young mother of two children, was brutally killed outside a Cottage Grove shopping mall by her estranged husband.
In February, Congress voted to re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). It was first passed in 1994 to protect victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Amendments to the 2013 re-authorization bill will expand VAWA to include protections for Native American victims of domestic violence, and provisions against sex trafficking.
Now, in recognition of International Women’s Day, women leaders in the United States Senate plan to re-introduce the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA). Passage of this law would make ending violence against women and girls globally a top diplomatic priority.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately one out of three women in the world will experience some sort of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and in some countries up to 70 percent of women have been victims of domestic violence. I-VAWA encourages legal accountability, supports health programs and survivor services, and promotes access to education and economic opportunities.
Violence against women and girls is a public health epidemic, a human rights violation, and a barrier to solving global challenges. This violence knows no cultural or national boundaries and devastates the lives of millions of women and girls – in peacetime and in conflict. Let’s stand up together and take all necessary steps to guarantee that violent attacks against women and girls are not tolerated.
In commemoration of International Women’s Day, I request that our Minnesota members of Congress co-sponsor the International Violence Against Women Act. Safeguarding the human rights of women and girls supports the future progress of all nations.
Senator Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul) is Vice President of the Women Legislators’ Lobby, a program of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND).