"No matter what country women around the world live in, no matter what religion they are, how much money they earn, or what age they are, they have at least one thing in common," said U.S. Ambassador-at-Large Melanne Verveer, "They are potential victims of violence."
Violence can affect girls and women at every point in their lives, from sex-selective abortion and infanticide, to inadequate healthcare and nutrition given to girls, to genital mutilation, child marriage, rape as a weapon of war, trafficking, so-called "honor" killings, dowry-related murder, and the neglect and ostracism of widows.
Far too often, says Ambassador Verveer, these acts go unpunished. Even when countries have laws criminalizing violence against women, they are often not enforced. Moreover, efforts to punish these criminal acts are frequently dismissed as being against national customs or traditions.
"I want to make clear," said Ambassador Verveer, "'culture' cannot justify the violation of human rights." Addressing violence against women is the responsibility of every nation.
On February 4, 2010, a proposed bill, the International Violence Against Women Act, was introduced in the U.S. Senate. We support the goals of the proposed International Violence Against Women Act. Increasing legal and judicial protection and health sector capacity to respond to violence against women are necessary steps needed to address sexual and gender-based violence. Similarly, we must pursue policies that increase women’s economic opportunity, advance educational opportunities, and build public awareness, among both men and women.
No country can fully develop with half its population left behind -- and ending violence against women is a prerequisite for women's social, economic and political participation and progress. "Girls in Afghanistan," said Ambassador Verveer, "can't get an equal education if they're subject to acid attacks and their schools are burned down. Women can't succeed in the work place if they are abused and traumatized, nor can they advance if legal systems continue to treat them as less than full citizens."
"Ending violence against women around the world is a human rights issue," said Ambassador Verveer, "and a worldwide crisis that must be resolved if we are to make gains in global stability, security, and prosperity."