I-VAWA: Equal Justice Under Law?

Stop Abusive and Violent Environments
December 12, 2013

During the recent reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, proponents often argued, “A victim is a victim is a victim.” These words were intended as a clarion call to bring an end to all discriminatory practices against victims of partner violence. Stop Abusive and Violent Environments strongly supported the inclusion of these measures in the new VAWA.

Recently the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) was introduced in the House (H.R. 3571). A companion bill is expected to be dropped in the Senate soon.

But somewhere along the way, the message of inclusivity and fairness was forgotten. I-VAWA repeatedly denies the existence of male victims of domestic violence — even though studies in the United States and 85 other countries show females are just as likely to be abuse perpetrators as males:

Enshrining Gender Bias

If I-VAWA were enacted into law, U.S. Foreign Assistance Act programs would be required to address violence “against women and girls,”…but violence against men and boys would be ignored.

Criminal justice officials would be instructed about “preventing and responding to violence against women and girls,” but would not be informed about the widespread problem of violence against men and boys. Contractors and grantees would be required to “take effective measures to prevent violence against women and girls,” but men and boys would be left out in the cold.

Thanks to I-VAWA, the U.S. State Department would appoint an Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, but have no similar official to focus on the issues of men. And the USAID Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment would be unlikely to consider equality issues as they apply to men.

Equal Treatment under Law

Nearly every country has laws that ban gender discrimination. But the International Violence Against Women Act would promote policies and practices that openly discriminate on the basis of sex.

Emblazoned across the front of the U.S. Supreme Court are the words, “Equal Justice Under Law.” These four words have inspired generations of Americans.

But for advocates of I-VAWA, these words are a quaint vestige of a by-gone era.