Violence Against Women: Global Costs and Consequences

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
October 2, 2009

Yesterday, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Below is an excerpt from her submitted, written testimony.

Violence against women is an issue that should concern us all. Women are the key to progress and prosperity in the 21st century. When they are marginalized and mistreated, humanity cannot progress. When they are accorded their rights and afforded equal opportunities in education, health care, employment, and political participation, they lift up their families, their communities, and their nations.

As we look ahead toward a comprehensive international campaign to end violence against women, we must ensure that all of the following are a part of our strategies:

(1) First, we must define this violence not as a women’s issue but as one of international human rights and national security. This means that our efforts to prevent and combat violence must go beyond current campaigns aimed primarily at women. Our efforts must recognize that men and women at all levels of society and of all ages have roles to play. Crucially, it also means that our strategies cannot exist purely at the grassroots level. Policymakers and decision-makers must recognize and take up this issue not only as one that touches on their interests, but as one that is at the heart of their interests and for which they have responsibility.

(2) Involvement by international religious leaders of all faiths is critical.

(3) Men can and must be a part of the effort to end violence against women.

(4) Continuing to work towards women’s economic empowerment is essential. Beyond the development gains that accrue to countries in which women are active economic participants, women who control their own resources are better-positioned to escape situations of violence. Achieving this goal means identifying and working to remove institutional obstacles to women’s economic success, including inequitable land tenure laws and customs as well as those that constrain equal property rights and inheritance.

(5) Access to high-quality education is fundamentally important, for both girls and boys. We must ensure that girls not only have access to the same education as boys, but that they are safe as they travel to and from school and while they learn.

(6) In areas of conflict, the best outcome is a rapid end to strife. We must recognize the collateral damage inflicted on civilian women in regions of protracted conflict, and improve protection for women, prevention of further atrocities, and we must ensure the prosecution of perpetrators, be they soldiers or top commanders. The recent passage of U.S.-sponsored UN Security Resolution 1888 is progress, but we must ensure that the new resolution itself is effectively and expeditiously implemented.

(7) We must recognize that violence against women flourishes where impunity is the norm. Regions in conflict are particularly vulnerable to judicial breakdown, but impunity can also reign long after conflicts are resolved. We know that good laws alone won’t ensure that women will be protected. We must work with governments around the world to focus on the implementation of laws and on judicial training in order to ensure an end to impunity.

(8) Where programs are working well, we should take them to scale.

(9) Finally, we need to understand that violence against women is a policy imperative that deserves to be our highest priority. We need to recognize that this problem of violence is, at root, a manifestation of the low status of women and girls around the world. Ending the violence requires elevating their status and freeing their potential to be agents of change in their community.

The State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues is deeply committed to implementing these strategies and to building the kinds of partnerships that will allow us to leverage international progress toward our goals. We will address violence against women by promoting the rule of law, enhancing strong criminal and civil justice programs, encouraging implementation of laws, and building public awareness of the benefits of educating girls and providing them with economic opportunity and health care as well as changing societal attitudes.

Read Ambassador Verveer's full written testimony here.



Texas, USA
October 2, 2009

David in Texas writes:

An outstanding summary of the tasks ahead to ensure that women are free from violence and discrimation. It's heartening to see that the Secretary and U.S. recognize the multilevel actions and leadership needed to address this international issue. Certaionly we have seen the benefits of recognizing women as leaers in our own country. This must now spread to all other countries.

New York, USA
October 2, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

Without Girls....

Without women....without women...well you get the idea....So, how have has the international community allowed the violence against girls and women to occur and grow to such insane

First, we should admit that economic pressures have made women and girls more vulnerable to the sex-trades and other illicit commercial enterprises. Second, gender violence has unfortunately become a
compelling issue at UN; to capture support and attention for UN programmes. In a sense, it is exploitation added to injury.Ultimately, this issue is about power and money. It is also very difficult for male anti-violence against women advocates to sit and participate comfortably in these forums. We need to make a new space for this dialogue.

New Hampshire, USA
October 6, 2009

Jack in New Hampshire writes:


I regularly post comments on DipNote to add my voice to the dialogue on issues, but also in hopes of hearing back from those who are making policy on the various issues. I want to hear back from you on something.

There's a horrifying article in today's New York Times out of Conakry about the rape of women at the hands of the Guinean military. While not uncommon in the developing world, this situation is still terrible. As is our policy with other African countries, I'm certain we provide foreign assistance and some military assistance. In light of the fact that these women are being sexually assaulted by members of the military, what do you have to say about it?

In a previous comment, I urged you to "make it count."

I'd like to hear how your office plans to respond to this issue in Conakry.

Looking forward to hearing from you.



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