On August 10, the Obama administration launched a new strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence (GBV) globally. The goal of the strategy is to create a comprehensive approach to address GBV by identifying and coordinating ongoing government efforts and resources.
According to the State Department the initiative, “advances the Department of State’s efforts to raise the status of women and girls around the world and underscores the United States Government’s commitment to preventing and responding to gender-based violence.”
Gender-based violence can take many forms, including rape, sexual assault, honor killings and domestic abuse. In conflict areas such as Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo, GBV is utilized systematically to inflict damage on a community. While GBV is commonly associated with violence against women, it is also perpetrated against men. In Syria, security forces have used rape and other forms of sexual violence against both men and women while in custody. Rape and other forms of sexual violence are at times utilized to humiliate and create fear amongst communities. Survivors of GBV often face a social stigma that isolates them from their family and neighbors.
Many pieces of the strategy stem from past congressional efforts, namely the International Violence against Women Act (IVAWA), which was widely supported by United to End Genocide’s predecessor, the Save Darfur Coalition. In 2010, the bipartisan legislation garnered support from 135 representatives and 36 senators. It was an effective tool to encourage the federal government to increase efforts on gender-based violence.
The strategy aims to prevent GBV, protect survivors and support judicial mechanisms so that perpetrators are held accountable for their crimes. The Obama administration also created an interagency working group with officials throughout the government to coordinate implementation of the strategy.
The strategy has four objectives:
- Increase coordination of GBV prevention and response efforts among United States government agencies and with other stakeholders
- Enhance integration of GBV prevention and response efforts into existing agency programs and policies
- Improve collection, analysis and use of data and research to enhance GBV prevention and response efforts; and
- Enhance or expand United States government programming that addresses GBV.
This announcement is a major victory for activists and the human rights community that has worked for years to prevent and respond to gender-based violence worldwide.