Violence Against WomenFact sheet released by the Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues, March 10, 1998.
The Problem in the United States
- Violence against women is a serious problem in the United States. Despite a heightened national awareness and successful inroads and efforts on many fronts, much remains to be done. We must continue the vigorous enforcement of laws designed to protect women from abuse, to prevent further abuse, and to enhance victim safety and services.
The United States Government Response
- As part of his landmark 1994 Crime Act, President Clinton signed into law the Violence Against Women Act (the VAWA). The VAWA has created a series of federal crimes targeted at interstate domestic violence and stalking. Its prosecutions complement prosecutions taking place at state and local levels.
- To ensure that enforcement, prevention, and victim services are enhanced at the local level, the VAWA provided more that $1.6 billion over six years for police, prosecution, prevention, and victim service initiatives.
- The Departmentís STOP (Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors) Violence Against Women formula grant program provides direct services to victims of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault and assists law enforcement officers and prosecutors in developing the criminal justice systemís response to violence against women. Since 1995, more than $400 million has been awarded to states and territories for law enforcement and victim services initiatives.
- In August 1996, the Department of Justice responded to President Clintonís request for a plan to create a national registry to track sex offenders, including rapists and child molesters.
- On February 21, 1996, President Clinton launched the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a 24-hour, toll-free service which provides crisis assistance and local shelter referral for callers across the country. The hotline has received over 140,000 calls since it was launched. The hotline received $1.2 million in funding for fiscal year 1998. It is operated by the Texas Council on Family Violence, through a Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) grant. The voice number is (800) 787-SAFE. The TDD number for the hearing impaired is (800) 787-3224.
The Problem in the International Community
- Violence against women, both inside and outside the home, is a widespread and entrenched violation of womenís human rights around the world. Some countries have strengthened their laws to protect women from domestic abuse, while others have done nothing. Some have passed new penal codes specifically prohibiting domestic violence, while in others husbands are permitted by law to use physical force against their wives. The laws of many countries are silent on the subject of domestic violence.
- Women and girls are subjected to brutal treatment in numerous countries. This includes beatings, systematic rape, forced prostitution, forced marriages, and even beheadings. In some countries, "honor murder" of wives is practiced when a man suspects his wife of being unfaithful. Dowry deaths in other countries may occur when the wife brings an insufficient dowry to the marriage.
The United States Government Response
- The United States has been the strongest political and logistical supporter of the United Nations War Crimes Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, including supporting the inclusion of rape as a war crime. The Rwanda Tribunal made history in 1997 when it filed its first indictment for rape and sexual abuse.
- These War Crimes Tribunals are paving the way for progress toward a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC). President Clinton has called for the Court to be established before the end of the century. The ICC would try individuals for genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity, if national courts failed to do so. The United States has been instrumental in insuring that these crimes include crimes of sexual violence against women.
- The government of Russia has asked the United States government to jointly develop a conference that will be held in Moscow to address family violence against women. The goal of the conference is to share best practices and strengthen mechanisms for dealing with and preventing violence against women in the family.
- The Department of Stateís annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices detail human rights violations, including violations against women and girls. These reports form the basis for bilateral discussions on human rights.
The United States government is announcing an additional $10 million to combat violence against women.
- In fiscal years 1998 and 1999, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will continue to strengthen its focus on gender-based violence including the provision of $5 million for new efforts to assist victims through networks of crisis centers and hotlines; augment existing work with "best practices" of service providers; strengthen efforts toward legislative reform and legal training; and support information needs for the public sector and policy arena.
- Department of Stateís Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) has committed $1.5 million for fiscal year 1998 and will request an additional $3.5 million for fiscal year 1999 to carry out police training in local communities and multi-disciplinary training on violence against women. This includes training for doctors, social workers, law enforcement officers, judges, prosecutors, and crisis center personnel in Russia and the former Soviet Union.
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