United States foreign policy took a leap forward on May 8th when five Senators introduced the International Violence Against Women Act. This new bipartisan bill is designed to make the protection of rights of women and girls worldwide a key priority to U.S. diplomats. Presentation of this bill comes at the heels of the recent kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls and the subsequent global reaction. In recent years, reports of violent acts around the world have pushed the international community to speak out on behalf of women’s rights.
Included in the International Violence Against Women Act are various statistics that demonstrate the prevalence of domestic violence worldwide. One figure from the UN Development Fund for Women states that 1 out of every 3 women will be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused by an intimate partner during her lifetime. The Act proposes that the U.S. will address issues concerning women’s rights in countries receiving foreign aid. This act applies directly to Kenya due to the fact that in 2012, USAID reports that Kenya received $412.2 million in assistance from the U.S. government. In the event that this bill passes, the U.S. will be required to promote gender equality in Kenya by creating and supporting programs that recognize and prevent gender violence. It is important to note that the act states that men and boys must also be motivated to help to reduce gender-based violence.
Kenya will also begin debates on the new Protection Against Domestic Violence Bill this upcoming week in Parliament. The focus of this bill is protecting women and other victims of domestic violence, including children and other dependents. One of the key points of the bill is a broadening of the term “domestic violence” to include more than just physical violence. If this bill becomes law, the definition of domestic violence would then include instances of child marriage, female genital mutilation, and sexual and emotional abuse. The purpose of the law is to emphasize the familial unit and its importance in reducing violence throughout broader Kenyan society.
These two potential laws represent an important step forward for women’s rights worldwide. The timing of these two bills creates an opportunity for leaders from the United States and Kenya to work together to encourage the advancement of women and their role in Kenyan society. We at MGEF are optimistic about the steps being taken to combat violence against women at the governmental level. MGEF also works to educate the Maasai population in Kenya on the rights of women and children through our Community Education Workshops for girls, boys, men and women.
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