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Advocates Optimistic About Increased Awareness of Violence Against Women

Advocates Optimistic About Increased Awareness of Violence Against Women

June 3, 2014 — Women's rights advocates are lauding the growing global awareness of violence against women, particularly as recent high-profile incidents garner activism and government responses, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

For example, legislators in India expedited a measure that increases prison terms for rapists after widespread public outrage over the gang rape and murder of a student in 2012. In the U.S., new efforts are underway to address sexual assault in the military and at colleges. In addition, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) earlier this year introduced the International Violence Against Women Act (S 2307) to make violence against women a greater diplomatic priority for the U.S.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and actress Angelina Jolie are scheduled to co-chair the first Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict from June 10 through June 13 in London.

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Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, said that while violence against women is "not anything new," what is new is "that people in the United States and globally are coming around to say 'enough is enough,' and starting to hold governments and institutional leaders accountable."

Similarly, Liesl Gerntholz, executive director of the Women's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, said that violence against women is "an issue that's being taken seriously in a way that it wasn't before." She added, "Governments are acknowledging there's a responsibility of the state to prevent violence against women -- even in the home -- and bring perpetrators to justice."

However, some scholars question whether parallels can be drawn between incidents of violence in the U.S. and other countries.

Christina Hoff Sommers, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said that women in the U.S. "are equal before the law" and "[c]reating this idea that women in America are an oppressed class, that we are held back by patriarchy similar to our sisters living under Sharia law -- that's just ridiculous."

Meanwhile, National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill defended such comparisons, saying that while the "specific expression" of violence against women "takes different forms in different countries," the "underlying attitude is the devaluing of women as human beings" (Crary, AP/Sacramento Bee, 5/31).