Ending Violence Against Women Is a Foreign Policy Priority

Posted by Melanne Verveer / February 08, 2010

About the Author: Ambassador-at-Large Melanne Verveer serves as director of the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.

No matter what country women around the world live in, no matter what religion they are, how much money they earn, or what age they are, they have at least one thing in common: They are potential victims of violence. Violence against women is endemic around the globe.  Violence can affect girls and women at every point in their lives, from sex-selective abortion and infanticide, to inadequate healthcare and nutrition given to girls, to genital mutilation, child marriage, rape as a weapon of war, trafficking, so-called “honor” killings, dowry-related murder, and the neglect and ostracism of widows — and this is not an exhaustive list.  Far too often, these acts go unpunished. Even when countries have laws on their books to criminalize violence against women, these laws frequently go unenforced. Even when individual cases are seen as the individual tragedies that they are, connections are too seldom made to the larger pattern of women’s global inequality and the worldwide lack of respect for their human rights.  Far too often, these acts are seen as family matters, and take place behind a veil of privacy. And far too often, efforts to punish these criminal acts are dismissed as being against national customs or traditions.   I want to make it clear: “culture” cannot justify the violation of human rights. Addressing violence against women is the responsibility and imperative of every nation. In terms of its moral, humanitarian, development, economic, and international security consequences, violence against women and girls is one of the major impediments to progress around the globe. We need the kind of serious and coordinated response to it that we give to other threats of this magnitude.   read more

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