WASHINGTON — Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) were joined today by four of their Senate colleagues in introducing the Keeping Women and Girls Safe from the Start Authorization Act of 2020. Against the backdrop of the largest refugee crisis in recorded history, the new bipartisan legislation seeks to bolster current United States’ and international efforts to address gender-based violence during humanitarian emergencies by affirming United States’ support for prevention and response programs and by better equipping humanitarian actors with the resources necessary to confront both present and future challenges.
The legislation also seeks to elevate the voices of women and girls by fostering empowerment opportunities that promote leadership and involvement in humanitarian response efforts.
“Now more than ever, it is necessary that we acknowledge and confront the horrific and widespread perpetration of gender-based violence, especially in the context of humanitarian emergencies,” said Senator Menendez. “The fight against gender-based violence around the world is a fight that demands action from every single one of us. With this commonsense legislation, we shine yet another light on the importance of preventing and improving our response to the scourge of gender-based violence during humanitarian crises. The Keeping Women and Girls Safe from the Start Authorization Act provides critically needed tools that the United States and its partners can use to address the persistent horrific violence against displaced women and girls, whether in refugee camps or in other settings. I look forward to continuing to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to enact this important legislation into law soon.”
“It is our moral responsibility to speak up for the voiceless, stand up for the defenseless, and to help the most vulnerable in each community. Gender-based violence is a global issue and one that demands our response,” said Senator Murkowski. “Unfortunately, emerging data suggests that one unintended consequence of the COVID-19 stay at home orders has been an increase in incidents of domestic violence and abuse, particularly against women and girls. Gender-based violence has long been an issue, but these increased cases of domestic violence and sexual assault are a stark reminder that we must put policies in place to protect the vulnerable from falling victim to these crimes. This legislation works to better prevent and address GBV from the start.”
“Humanitarian crises disproportionately impact the most vulnerable societies, and in these settings, women and girls are at great risk for suffering from gender-based violence. Combating gender-based violence must remain a critical foreign policy objective for the United States. This bill helps us make good on that effort,” said Senator Shaheen. “Our legislation ensures the important work currently underway by USAID and the State Department to address gender-based violence in conflict settings continues undeterred. As a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, protecting, supporting and empowering women and girls around the world will always be top priorities for me.”
"As millions of displaced people seek refuge around the world, women are holding their families together even in the most dire of circumstances,” said Senator Cardin. “I am proud to support this legislation that puts women and girls in humanitarian emergencies at the forefront by expanding opportunities for leadership, strengthening protections, and by improving efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.”
“This bill reaffirms our country’s commitment to fighting the abhorrent violence experienced by too many women, girls, and others in humanitarian crises across the world," said Senator Blumenthal. "I am proud to fight for strengthening global efforts to eradicate gender-based violence. This legislation will help hold those who perpetrate these heinous acts accountable, provide supportive care and services to the victims, and fund women’s rights organizations to empower the affected women and girls.”
Joining Senators Menendez, Murkowski, Shaheen, Cardin, and Blumenthal in cosponsoring the bill were Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Jack Reed (D-R.I.).
A Section-by-Section summary of the Keeping Women and Girls Safe from the Start Authorization Act can be found HERE.
A copy of the bill may be found HERE.