The International Violence Against Women Act: Could IVAWA Save Guatemala from Femicide?

In February, a bill entitled the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) was introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. A remarkably comprehensive and progressive piece of legislation, IVAWA would provide an unprecedented amount of aid to countries deemed to be among the most dangerous places in the world for women. The bill is truly a bipartisan effort, with sponsorship in the House by Representatives Bill Delahunt (D-MA) and Ted Poe (R-TX), and in the Senate by Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

IVAWA was initially introduced in 2007 by then Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) and Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN), and was drafted with the input and expert advice of over 100 NGOs, including Amnesty International and the Feminist Majority Foundation. Although the bill failed to go to a vote at the time three years ago, its reintroduction in 2010 has generated a significant amount of buzz on both sides of the aisle. Representative Delahunt has emphasized the bill’s importance, both on a moral level as well as a national security priority, noting that “the suffering and denial of the rights of women and the instability of nations are linked . . . They go hand in hand.” With the growing recognition of the importance of girls’ education and welfare as the keystone to achieving and maintaining peace, IVAWA represents an exceptional effort by Washington to support humanitarian efforts that focus strictly on protecting women in some of the world’s most violent and tumultuous societies.

Guatemala: “The Most Dangerous Place for Women in All of Latin America”

Crime and violence long have been prevalent throughout Guatemala, but in the fourteen years since the end of the country’s bloody internal conflict, violence against women and girls has escalated markedly. Between 2001 and 2006, the rate at which women and girls were murdered in Guatemala increased at a significantly higher rate than that of men during the same period. Among a population of less than 15 million, approximately two females are brutally murdered each day. The Central American Council of Human Rights Ombudsman (CCPDH) found that the mortality rate of women in Guatemala today is among the highest in the world.

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