This weekend, a woman in Nebraska was reportedly stabbed 13 times by her husband after having filed a protection order against him just last month. A few days earlier, three young girls were gang raped by soldiers in Ogaden, Ethiopia. Recent reports indicate the girls remain in critical condition after having nearly bled to death as a result of the attacks.
Violence against women is a global scourge. It’s an international shame that affects 35 percent of women during their lifetimes. That means one out of three of our mothers, daughters, and wives beaten, raped, or killed. According to UN Women, 64 million girls worldwide are child brides, often resulting in early pregnancy that threatens the life of the mother and leaves them vulnerable to domestic violence and marital rape, and 140 million women and girls have been subjected to genital mutilation. In the United States, 83 percent of girls in public school aged 12 to 16 have been sexually harassed, and in the European Union 40 to 50 percent of women have been the target of unwanted sexual advances at work. Perhaps most horrifying, modern-day slavery continues to shackle tens of millions of women globally.
As such, the Obama Administration has made the protection and promotion of women’s rights fundamental to its foreign policy. We have worked to institutionalize women in peacekeeping, safeguard reproductive health, promote economic opportunity, and combat all forms of violence against women in every corner of the world. But our efforts cannot stop now, as the work is far from finished.
Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, but today should not be the only day we decide to face the grim reality of our societies’ pandemic of female violence. On this day, let us instead commit ourselves to standing up for the dignity of every woman, every day. Violence against women isn’t cultural, it’s criminal. Equality cannot come eventually, it’s something we must fight for now. If we don’t, we not only reject the inalienable human rights of all women and girls, but also threaten the fundamental stability, security, and prosperity of our societies.
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