Abduction of Nigerian Schoolgirls Prompts Further Attempt at Legal Reform of US Foreign Aid Policy

London, 22 May 2014

On 8 May, in the wake of the abduction of more than two hundred schoolgirls in Nigeria, a bi-partisan group of Senators reintroduced the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA), which has been rejected twice before, to the US Senate. 

The aim of the legislation is to make reducing violence against women and girls a top diplomatic priority. The bill would require the US government to adopt a comprehensive strategy to promote the rights and safety of women and girls globally through foreign policy and foreign assistance programmes. If adopted, it would integrate a human rights based approach to tackling violence against women in the global context.

The reintroduction of the bill is the third attempt to have the I-VAWA enacted after previous unsuccessful attempts between 2009 and 2012. If the bill was to be adopted this time, it would create a comprehensive approach to addressing violence against women as a human rights issue and to promoting gender equality, economic growth and public health in the US’s foreign activities. In particular, the I-VAWA would require the US to:

  • Integrate efforts to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls internationally into foreign policy and foreign assistance programmes, and to develop a five-year global strategy to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls (Sections 3(2) and 111(a)).
  • Tackle violence with a multisectoral approach by introducing activities in the education, health, nutrition, legal and judicial sectors (Section 3(5)).
  • Enhance training by US personnel of professional foreign military and police forces and judicial officials, and ensure that all US contractors and grantees take effective measures to prevent violence against women and girls (Section 3(7) and (10)).
  • Establish an Office of Global Women’s Issues and a position of Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (Sections 101(a) and 102(a)).


The Equal Rights Trust (ERT) welcomes the attempt to finally adopt the I-VAWA, and to bring violence against women and girls into focus of the United State’s global policies. Gender-based violence is not only a form of discrimination against women and a severe human rights violation as such, but it also destabilises countries, hinders economic progress and negatively affects the public health of both women and children.

To read the I-VAWA click here.