Oral Testimony before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Hearing on GBV

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November 20, 2013

Oral Testimony before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Hearing on GBV

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The ways in which women experience human rights abuses are unique. While human rights are often understood as the rights that everyone has by virtue of their humanity, the assumption that all humans have the same experiences and needs is particularly problematic for women.

Historically, states have assumed responsibility for human rights violations only when state agents or officials were the perpetrators, and certain forms of violence against women by state agents have been acknowledged as torture. However, women more often face abuses from non-state actors, such as their employers, partners, husbands, families, friends, and community members. It is critical to note that whether abuses against women are committed by state or non-state actors, in the public or private spheres, the state is obliged to condemn, prevent and punish all acts of violence against women and to take measures to empower women.

Human rights abuses against women are often complicated by further discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, caste, culture, or age. The type and prevalence of violence and discrimination that women experience are often determined by how their gender interacts with these and other factors.

Amnesty International USA urges the United States to take concrete policy steps to help end gender-based violence globally.

We see progress on two of our past recommendations to the Commission – the promulgation of both a U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally and a U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. But much work remains to be done.

Amnesty International has recommended four U.S. policy initiatives which will make a significant impact in the work to end gender-based violence globally. These are:

  • Passage of the Women, Peace and Security Act,
  • U.S. promotion of reform of laws and policies that discriminate against women and girls,
  • U.S. ratification of CEDAW and finally
  • Passage of the International Violence Against Women Act which makes ending violence against women and girls a top U.S. diplomatic and foreign assistance priority. The Act would codify and implement the U.S Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally. The Act provides a comprehensive framework which would support survivors, hold perpetrators accountable, and prevent violence while ensuring that U.S. foreign aid is used in the most cost-effective and impactful way possible.

Amnesty's recent report on Egyptian women provides us with a poignant example of why this legislation is necessary.

Dalia Abdel Wahab, went to Tahrir Square in Cairo on January 25th to exercise her right to protest. Dalia's life was threatened as she was beaten and sexually assaulted by a mob of men. Like the many other women who have faced gender-based violence while peacefully protesting in Tahrir Square, her attackers have not been brought to justice.

A life free from violence is a fundamental human right. Yet nearly a billion women around the world will not have that freedom.

To affect real change in the lives of women globally, action is needed now, and the United States must continue to be a leader on this issue by passing legislation such as the International Violence Against Women Act.

Chairmen McGovern, Wolf, and members of the Commission, on behalf of Dalia, myself and the nearly one billion women around the world who have experienced gender-based violence; I thank you for holding this important hearing and urge you to take swift action.

Thank you.