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For Immediate Release

Extend Violence Against Women Act Protections Worldwide, Urges PHR

House Vote to Renew US Legislation Is Welcome Step, But Broader Protection Needed

Cambridge, MA - 03/01/2013

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) applauds yesterday’s vote by the House of Representatives to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and urges Congress to extend such coverage to all women around the world by passing the International Violence Against Women Act.

“After too long a hiatus, the House has now taken steps to once again afford these crucial legal protections to women across the US,” said Donna McKay, executive director of PHR. “Now we must focus on ensuring that women everywhere receive similar safeguards against all forms of sexual violence."

The House voted 286-138 to approve an expanded version of the bill, which the Senate passed earlier this year by a vote of 78-22. President Obama has said he will sign it into law.

The legislation, first passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000 and 2005, was allowed to lapse in 2011 after Congressional critics expressed opposition to certain expanded provisions. The law provides funds to investigate and prosecute violent crimes against women, mandates that perpetrators provide restitution to their victims, and allows for civil remedies when prosecutors decline to file criminal charges.

The International Violence Against Women Act, first introduced in 2007, would make the reduction of such violence a diplomatic priority of the US. That priority would be incorporated into all foreign aid programs—responding to outbreaks of gender-based violence, promoting women’s economic opportunity, and working to change public attitudes that condone such violence.

“Sadly, violence against women remains endemic in many countries,” said Susannah Sirkin, director of international policy and partnerships at PHR. “Domestic violence, rape, honor killings, genital mutilation, and human trafficking are still far too common, and weak laws mean that perpetrators in many countries are able to operate with impunity. Until VAWA-type protections can be extended worldwide, millions of women still face the very really prospect of sexual violation and violence.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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