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At a recent hearing in a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee the topic of gender based violence was discussed with all witnesses advocating for the ratification of the UN Women’s treaty — the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the passing of the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA).

The hearing was an opportunity for Senator Barbara Boxer (CA-D), chairman of the Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues, to seek support for IVAWA — legislation re-introduced by her last month when the global community became outraged over the abduction of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls.

While both IVAWA and CEDAW are designed to establish programs in countries where violence against women and girls is prevalent, the vague language contained in both is problematic as it can later be defined to advance a right to unrestricted abortion.

The implementing guidelines within IVAWA names controversial foreign policy initiatives implemented by the Obama Administration on gender-based violence that mandate sexual and reproductive health and rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights. Passing IVAWA would codify these initiatives as permanent foreign policy priorities funded by US assistance.

The Obama administration supports the ratification of CEDAW and reproductive rights activists have long pushed for its passage. However, concern over abortion expansion by prolife advocates is justified due to the actions of the CEDAW treaty monitoring committee which has pressured over 90 countries that have ratified CEDAW to liberalize their abortion laws.

The panelists testifying at the hearing included several of Sen. Boxer’s female colleagues, Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russell and USAID Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Susan Markham. Russell would be tasked with defining the programs that would be implemented through the State department and USAID.

Notably absent at the hearing were witnesses to address alternate options for protecting women from violence and discriminatory practices, however Senator Rand Paul, ranking member of the subcommittee spoke to the violence being perpetrated against women drawing particular focus to a common root cause  — religious persecution.

Paul called for prohibiting US foreign assistance to countries that condone religious persecution or perpetuate rampant violence against women.

“Our aid money… should never go to countries that persecute women or Christians, not one dime,” said Paul. “Our jobs, as the powerful, is to use our might to speak for those who cannot. Whether that is the bully pulpit, our foreign aid, our state department, our immigration policy, or our trade policy, all avenues should be open to us in solving this worldwide problem,” he concluded.

Reprinted with permission from TurtleBayandBeyond.org.

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