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Senate Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Global Violence Against Women

On June 24, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues held a hearing, “Combating Violence and Discrimination Against Women: A Global Call to Action.”

Susan Markham, senior coordinator for gender equality, US Agency for International Development, stated, “According to the United Nations Population Fund, almost 50 percent of all sexual assaults worldwide are against girls 15 and younger. In 2002, 150 million girls and 73 million boys under the age of 18 years experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence….In the context of humanitarian crises and emergencies, civilian women and children are often the most vulnerable to exploitation, violence, and abuse because of their gender, age, and status in society. Women with a disability are two to three times more likely to suffer physical and sexual abuse than women with no disability. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons also face heightened risk. Sexual violence can also directly lead to HIV infection. Gender-based violence can foster the spread of HIV by limiting one’s ability to negotiate safe sexual practices, disclose HIV status, and access services due to fear of reprisal.  Gender-based violence undermines the safety, dignity, health, and human rights of survivors as well as the public health, economic stability, and security of nations.”

Hauwa Ibrahim, visiting scholar, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, and senior partner, Aries Law Firm in Nigeria, stated,  “I was born and lived most of my life in Gombe state in northern Nigeria. I was a child in a poor family raised in a Muslim home. As was the local practice, I was given away in marriage at age 10.  Being the ‘stubborn’ child in my family, at 11 I ran away from home to a boarding school for girls. My family told me not to come back but I was determined to get an education. I eventually became a lawyer – the first woman from my state – and returned there to practice law. However, since the courts in north Nigeria use sharia law, women were not allowed to speak, so I had to pass notes to male lawyers to represent my clients, including women sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. Most of my cases were pro bono, helping women and children gain justice primarily through informal negotiations outside the courts.”

The following witnesses also testified:

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA);
  • Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI);
  • Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND);
  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI);
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA);
  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI);
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN);
  • Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA);
  • Catherine Russell, ambassador at large for global women’s issues, Department of State;
  • Gary Barker, international director, Promundo; and
  • Jacqueline O’Neill, director, Institute for Inclusive Security.
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