Carey Roberts
I-VAWA: set-back for women?
By Carey Roberts
March 10, 2010

The International Violence Against Women Act — I-VAWA for short — has recently been introduced in Congress. Certainly we all wish to see an end to domestic violence around the world.

But scratch below its innocent-sounding name and you'll find a bill brimming with ideological buzz-words, dubious assumptions, and unproven remedies. Worse, if passed, the International Violence Against Women Act could actually harm women around the globe. Here's how:

1. Defines minor marital discord as "violence." I-VAWA defines domestic violence broadly to include "coercion." Do we really want to prosecute a woman on charges of pestering her better half? Is it wise to turn husband-nagging into a crime?

2. Will weaken the family structure. Families are the most important economic and social institution, especially in developing countries. Encouraging persons to scream "abuse!" for every lover's quarrel and marital tiff will rend asunder family ties.

3. Will place women at greater risk of partner violence. By breaking up the family unit, women will face higher odds of abuse. Research shows persons in stable, married relationships have the lowest rates of partner violence, while the highest rates are found among separating and unmarried couples.

4. Will force women into poverty. Removed from their primary breadwinner, women will be forced to depend on social welfare programs that are spotty or non-existent in Third World countries. (In the 1970s, Great Society programs required low-income women to leave their income-producing husbands in order to qualify for aid. Social scientists termed the ensuing pauperization the "feminization of poverty.")

5. Will result in the widespread incarceration of women. I-VAWA would institute heavy-handed criminal justice measures. In India, misguided mandatory arrest policies resulted in the arrest of 123,000 women accused of abuse during the period 2004-2007. Now, women's groups are at the forefront of efforts to roll back the country's domestic violence laws:

6. Ignores the leading cause of domestic violence injury to women. According to Centers for Disease Control researcher Daniel Whitaker, "a woman's perpetration of violence was the strongest predictor of her being a victim of partner violence." But I-VAWA is silent about helping violence-prone women to curb their abuse.

7. Closes it eyes to other common causes of domestic violence. Partner violence is often linked to alcohol or drug abuse, poor conflict resolution skills, and childhood emotional trauma. Again, I-VAWA implies these are non-issues.

8. Stereotypes men as abusers. Most women care for men — their husbands, boyfriends, fathers, brothers, co-workers, and sons. Women certainly don't want men to be vilified, or have their civil rights removed in the name of curbing abuse.

9. Silences partner abuse in the lesbian community. Lesbian (and gay) couples experience domestic violence as often as heterosexual couples. Stereotypically depicting domestic violence as men striking women does a grave disservice to persons in same-sex relationships.

10. Diverts resources away from the true victims. The true victims of domestic violence need our help. These persons shouldn't have to compete with trivial or bogus cases to get the protection and help they need.

The International Violence Against Women Act is so far removed from the realities that women around the world face — and from the science of effective abuse-reduction methods — that one wonders if I-VAWA should be renamed the International Act Against Women.

© Carey Roberts


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Carey Roberts

Carey Roberts is an analyst and commentator on political correctness. His best-known work was an exposé on Marxism and radical feminism... (more)

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