By KEVIN DERBY
Mario Diaz-Balart and Lois Frankel
Two members of the South Florida delegation in the U.S. House are backing an effort to crack down on gender-based violence across the globe.
U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., announced they were cosponsoring U.S. Rep. Grace Meng’s, D-NY, “Safe from the Start Act” which would “codify the Department of State-United States Agency for International Development’s Safe from the Start Initiative, a program to prevent, mitigate, and respond to gender based violence from the onset of humanitarian emergencies such as conflict settings and natural disasters.”
Frankel’s office offered some of the rationale behind the proposal which would have the State Department USAID report to Congress on their efforts against gender-based violence in emergency situations.
“Gender-based violence is known to increase among refugees and those in these types of crisis environments. In fact, an estimated 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence during humanitarian emergencies, although the numbers are likely higher given the barriers associated with disclosure,” Frankel’s office noted this week.
“Gender-based violence threatens the lives of women and girls around the world – particularly those who are already vulnerable due to displacement from war, famine, or natural disaster,” said Meng. “Today, as we are witness to the largest flow of refugees in recorded history, protecting women and girls from gender-based violence must be a priority that is integrated fully into the U.S. government’s humanitarian response. My legislation would help ensure that happens, and it would be a critical tool in improving prevention and mitigation efforts as well. We must do all we can to save lives and protect women and girls from these despicable and brutal acts of abuse and violence. I am grateful to introduce the Safe from the Start Act alongside my bipartisan colleagues, and I urge all my colleagues in the House to support this bill.”
“From the start of their lives, women and girls everywhere must have the right to safety and security,” said Frankel. “Never are they more vulnerable than when their country is in crisis. Rape is commonly used as a tool of war. Access to reproductive care becomes scarce. We have seen this in Syria and now dramatically in Venezuela and Yemen. The Safe from the Start initiative, ensures that our government addresses gender-based violence (GBV) in humanitarian crises. Empowering women leads to a more secure world.”
“The global risk of violence and exploitation against girls and women increases during emergencies, such as natural disasters and turmoil,” said Diaz-Balart. “I am proud to be the cosponsor of this bipartisan legislation that would play a significant role in combating gender-based violence while also providing the necessary resources to mitigate and prevent such crises.”
The bill has been sent to the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee. So far there is no counterpart over in the U.S. Senate.