Amid rising advocacy for gender equality and women empowerment, violence against women is still prevalent in the Americas.
In her remarks in Washington DC, US Under Secretary Sewall for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Organization of American States said there are still obstacles to full equity and most appalling is the widespread violence against women in the Americas.
She stated that in the US alone, one in five women is sexually assaulted during her college years, though just one in ten incidents are ever reported.
In addition, there were over 19,000 sexual assaults in the U.S. military, 86 percent of which went unreported in 2014.
Domestic Violence Also Prevalent In Latin America
According to Secretary Sewall, a staggering “53 percent” of all women in Latin America have suffered some form of domestic violence.
In Guatemala, thousands of girls have been raped by fathers and family members, many becoming mothers before they turn 15.
In addition, many Latin American countries rank among the worst “in the world” for the number of women killed each year like Colombia where ten women are murdered every day.
“These numbers are sickening and they are unacceptable.” – Ms. Sewall
Exploitation Is Also Widespread for Women With Disabilities And LGBTs
According to Secretary Sewall, women with disabilities are facing exploitation as well. They are likely to suffer physical violence and sexual abuse.
Similarly, women of different sexual orientations and gender identities in the region face higher rates of violence and a harder path to justice.
In fact, in Brazil, more transgendered people are murdered than anywhere else in the world.
What Must Be Done to End the Violence Against Women
According to Ms. Sewall, the work starts with “preventing” violence against women in the first place. This action entails that everyone, private citizens and public leaders and especially men speaking out against violence and “for” equality.
“President Obama has said that it is on all of us to reject the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and to refuse to accept what’s unacceptable.” – Ms. Sewall.
In addition, preventing violence against women also means addressing the deeper imbalances in education, employment, and politics that reinforce a culture where women are valued less than men, where they are somehow seen as less worthy of equal respect, opportunity, and protection.
Providing Clear Path for Justice
Secretary Sewall highlighted the importance of equality and inclusion to build an environment where it’s never okay to look away, or to stay silent, when women are attacked.
“But when women are subjected to violence, they must have a clear path to justice.” – Ms. Sewall
Ms. Sewall pointed out the that region is falling far short to provide justice for women who were victims of violence. That is why it is crucial for countries have to consistently “enforce” the law and ensure a fair and responsive judicial process.
US Expands Efforts to Combat Sexual Violence Against Women Around the World
According to Secretary Sewall, the US’ reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013 strengthened the ability of native tribes to prosecute those who commit sexual violence, regardless of whether they are a tribal member.
In addition, the women act expanded resources to law enforcement to investigate rape, provided incentives for colleges to educate students about sexual assault, and increased assistance to vulnerable immigrant and LGBTI victims of domestic violence.
In addition, the Department of State has expanded efforts to combat sexual violence against women around the world. In fact, in 2012, the Department developed a global strategy to tackle all forms of violence against women through a holistic, government-wide approach to protect and help survivors, broaden access to justice, and help women across the globe understand and exercise their rights under the law.
The strategy has yielded positive result. In fact, since the strategy was announced, funding to tackle gender-based violence around the world has grown to more $150 million – an increase of 60 percent. Many U.S. embassies are developing plans to prevent violence against women and girls.
Also, the Department is also strengthening how they use data to ensure that new programs to prevent and respond to gender-based violence are more targeted and impactful.
“These efforts go hand-in-hand with the State Department’s broader efforts to empower women in all manner of public life and integrate gender perspectives in our work.” – Ms. Sewall.
Along with partners like the Inter-American Foundation and the OAS, the Department is helping women across the Americas to lift their voices and build their talents to move entire region closer to parity.
Stemming The Tide Of Violence
The US responds to the link between violence and HIV/AIDS as part of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), stemming the tide of trafficking in persons, responding to humanitarian crises, providing training to law enforcement and judges, or engaging with civil society, we factor in the concerns of women and seek ways to provide support to survivors and activists working to address violence.
In addition, the State Department supports efforts to help local governments investigate and prosecute crimes of gender-based violence; provide legal and psychological services to survivors; support prevention efforts by educating communities and engaging with critical stakeholders including men, boys and religious leaders; and support capacity-building to enhance the ability of the media and civil society to address these issues.
Investing In Education to reduce violence against women
The US also works with the private sector to identify creative and innovative programs to prevent and respond to gender based violence.
The US works to create opportunities through investing in education to entrepreneurship that will help women and girls overcome barriers and empower them to be less vulnerable to violence, exploitation, brutality, and abuse.
All around the world, governments and people are beginning to recognize that global stability, peace, and prosperity depend on protecting and advancing the rights of women and girls.
When a girl has the chance to go to school, has access to health care, and is kept safe from violence, she will marry later, have healthier children, and earn an income that she will invest back into her family and community – breaking the cycle of poverty. We’ve seen that integrating women’s perspectives int, she added.