Analysis of the 2013 International Violence Against Women Act

Domestic violence is known to be widespread around the world. Rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) vary substantially from country to country. Studies from 85 countries show men and women are equally likely to engage in partner aggression.[1] Research on dating violence in 32 countries reveals over half of partner violence is mutual.[2]

The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) has been introduced in Congress (S. 2307 and H.R. 3571 [3]). This bill is modeled on similar bills introduced in the 110th, 111th, and 112th sessions of Congress.


The basic assumption underlying the International Violence Against Women Act is that gender inequality is the root cause of domestic violence. But a comprehensive analysis recently concluded, “a nation’s gender inequality level…was not predictive of either male or female perpetrated physical partner abuse.”[4]

I-VAWA would support five types of violence-reduction programs:

  1. Programs to “change social norms”
  2. Educational opportunities for women and girls
  3. Expanded access to economic opportunities by “increasing distribution, credit, property, and inheritance rights for women and girls.”
  4. Development and enforcement of civil and criminal legal and judicial sanctions, protections, trainings, and capacity.
  5. Enhancement of health sector capacity

While some of these programs appear to address worthy issues, they have no proof of effectiveness in curbing IPV. For example, many of the criminal justice strategies promoted by the U.S. Violence Against Women Act have been found to be ineffective.[5] Likewise, abuse education programs have been found to be distinctly one-sided in their content.[6]

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, IPV has a variety of causes, particularly substance abuse, marital instability, and psychological distress.[7] But ironically, programs that address these three factors likely would not qualify for funding under I-VAWA.

I-VAWA would establish an Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues who would have sweeping authorities to direct the “activities, policies, programs, and funding” for the advancement of women and girls both in the State Department and in the “international programs of all other federal agencies.” Such powers in a federal government employee are unprecedented.

 I-VAWA highlights a series of Findings, most of which are unverifiable, biased, misleading, or false: I-VAWA is flawed because it ignores the most common types of domestic violence, particularly mutual and female-perpetrated abuse.

I-VAWA employs numerous undefined terms such as “violence,” “gender equality,” “women’s empowerment,” “gender-based violence,” and “gender analysis.” The vague nature of these terms has proven to be problematic because they are susceptible to ideological interpretation.

I-VAWA mandates that foreign aid priority be accorded to “nongovernmental organizations led by women.” The openly discriminatory nature of this provision is troubling.

I-VAWA would require the implementation of the United States Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security,[8] even though the connection between this Plan and IPV reduction is tenuous.

The International Violence Against Women Act is deeply problematic because it ignores a fundamental principle of American jurisprudence: Equal justice under law. I-VAWA represents a thinly-veiled attempt to institutionalize feminist precepts in U.S. foreign policy and promote a radical gender ideology across the globe.

Key Provisions

Following are the key provisions of the International Violence Against Women Act:

Section 3: Creates a new foreign policy priority to “take effective action to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls around the world, as a matter of basic human rights as well as to promote gender equality, economic growth, and improved public health.”

Section 101: Establishes an Office of Global Women’s Issues in the State Department. The Office would be headed by an “Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.” This ambassador would have wide-ranging powers and authorities to “direct activities, policies, programs, and funding relating to gender equality and the advancement of women and girls internationally…for all bureaus and offices in the Department of State and in the international programs of all other federal agencies.” [emphasis added]

Section 102: Establishes a “Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment” in the US Agency for International Development. This Senior Coordinator would “direct Agency resources for gender equality and women’s empowerment.”

Section 111: Mandates the establishment of a “United States global strategy to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls.” This plan would “integrate gender analysis into the strategy for each country,” and would be submitted “to the appropriate congressional committees…including the budget resources requested.”

Section 112: Authorizes the State Department and USAID to “provide assistance to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls internationally.” This Section requires at least 10% of foreign aid awarded to an eligible country be allocated to “community-based nongovernmental organizations, with priority given to nongovernmental organizations led by women.”

Section 113: Amends the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to address, “whenever applicable, the nature and extent of violence against women and girls.” This section also outlines a series of monitoring, evaluation, research, and data collection activities.


[1] Stop Abusive and Violent Environments. Partner Abuse Worldwide.

[2] Straus MA. Dominance and Symmetry in Partner Violence by Male and Female University Students in 32 Nations. Children and Youth Services Review. Vol. 30, 2008. Table 2.

[4] Esquivel-Santoveña EE, Lambert T, Hamel J. Partner Abuse Worldwide. Partner Abuse Vol. 4, No. 1, 2013.  Page 6.

[5] Stop Abusive and Violent Environments. Has VAWA Delivered on its Promises to Women? Rockville, MD. 2012.

[6] Stop Abusive and Violent Environments. Most Domestic Violence Educational Programs Lack Accuracy, Balance, and Truthfulness. Rockville, MD. 2012.

[7] Centers for Disease Control: Intimate Partner Violence: Risk and Protective Factors.   

[8] United States Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. 2011.