Violence against women affects women worldwide, regardless of class, race, age, or religion. One out of three women worldwide will be physically, sexually, or otherwise abused during her lifetime, with rates as high as 70% in some countries. There is no nation free from this scourge, the United States and Canada included. However, some countries experience higher rates of gender-based violence. Often counties characterized by religious extremism, poverty, and political instability also experience higher levels of violence against women.
Gender-based violence takes many forms and is rarely limited to a single category. Abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional; it can take place in the home or outside; it can even, in some situations, be considered socially acceptable. The effects are long lasting and wide-ranging, devastating lives and families and contributing to many other social ills.
Despite the immense negative impact violence against women has on our world, it often receives far less attention than it deserves. Too many believe that violence against women happens to “other” people, yet there is little distinction across economic, ethnic, geographic or religious lines. The Jewish community suffers the same rates of intimate partner violence as the national average.
Violence Against Women in the United States and Canada
Although significant strides have been made in US and Canadian efforts to empower women, gender-based violence still occurs at alarming rates. Much of this violence is in the form of domestic or intimate partner violence, in which one partner uses abusive behavior to maintain power and control over the other; as many as 4.8 million women in the United States experience intimate partner-related physical and sexual assault each year. As many as 600 women a day experience rape or sexual assault in the U.S. and almost 40% of Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of sexual assault since the age of 16.
There is a strong commitment to ending this violence. In the United States, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), first passed in 1994 and amended in 2002 and 2005, provides tools for prosecutors of crimes of gender-based violence and funds programs aimed at teaching respect and nonviolence in relationships as well as supporting the victims of violence and their families. In Canada, most provinces have passed legislation based on Saskatchewan’s Victims of Domestic Violence Act (1995), which increase the options and material support available to victims. The Canadian federal government also supports the Family Violence Initiative, which implements strategies and programs aimed at reducing violence in the family as well as compiles data on the prevalence of domestic violence.
For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women and Health Canada.
International Violence Against Women
One out of three women worldwide will be physically, sexually, or otherwise abused during her lifetime, with rates as high as 70% in some countries. Violence against women is a human rights violation that devastates lives, fractures communities, and prevents women from fully contributing to the economic development of their countries. Gender-based violence is most prevalent in nations with high levels of corruption and instability and is even used as a weapon in some of the bloodiest conflicts on the planet.
Gender equality is a prerequisite to sustainable global development and security. When the United States, Canada, and other wealthy nations take action to prevent violence against women around the world and help reintegrate victims into society, we make a down-payment on the stability and wellbeing of our own nations.
With these diverse goals, advocates and legislators in the U.S. have drawn on the successes and challenges of the Violence Against Woman Act and introduced the International Violence Against women Act (IVAWA). IVAWA seeks to provide concrete tools to women and others fighting to change the circumstances which lead to violence against women and girls. The legislation would support programs around the globe that help prevent violence, support health and survivor services, encourage legal accountability and a change in public attitudes, promote access to economic opportunity and education for women and girls, and support existing similar initiatives worldwide. Furthermore, I-VAWA would make the issue of violence against women a major diplomatic priority.