Twenty years ago, on September 13, 1994, President Clinton signed into law a bill that included the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The Act afforded greater protections to victims, brought the issue out of the private sphere and into the public domain, and resulted in a 64% drop in the intimate partner violence rate. Yet, recent news reports have once again thrust the issue front and center here in the United States, where domestic violence accounts for 0ver 20% of all violent crime.
The occasion of the twentieth anniversary of this vital legislation provides an opportune time to consider these sobering global statistics:
- 1 in 3 women globally will be a victim of physical and/or sexual violence by a partner or of sexual violence by a non-partner
- An estimated 50,000 women were raped during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina; it is estimated that a half million women and girls were targeted during the 1994 Rwanda genocide
- More than 600 million women live in countries without laws criminalizing intimate partner violence
- Studies have shown that women who have been subjected to violence are three times more likely to be at risk for HIV
- Nearly 40% of all murdered women are killed by their intimate partner
Legislation like VAWA is a powerful tool for combating violence against women domestically, and organizations working to prevent this violence and address root causes also effect change. International treaties including the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Comabating Violence Against Women, which entered into force just last month on August 1, the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women, and numerous other documents together evidence the depth and breadth of the global support regarding the right for women and girls to live without violence. Change happens slowly, but with all these instruments at our disposal, we have reason to believe it will happen.