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The Independent Institute
Commentary

I-VAWA’S Global Lie


The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) wants a lie to go global: Men are not victims of gender violence. Or, if they are, they do not deserve recognition.

I-VAWA is before Congress with strong support from Democrats. The act embeds the prevention of gender violence and the empowerment of women into American foreign policy. But females are the only victims addressed. Not even boys are included.

I-VAWA constitutes a 5-year redirection of foreign aid funds in order to insert politically-correct feminism into the structure of other nations. The I-VAWA summary states, “Emphasis is placed on promoting political, legal, and institutional reforms” in targeted nations and training their “police and the judiciary.” U.S. personnel would train “professional foreign military” on handling of “violence against women and girls.” I-VAWA aims at changing the attitudes, social norms, and law enforcement of other societies to reflect Western values. Historically speaking, other nations resent such attempts, and resist violently. I-VAWA should be rejected.

But it should be studied as an example of how PC feminism controls the debate to exclude males as victims. Consider domestic violence in general. The vast majority of studies indicate men and women are victimized at about the same rate. A 32-country survey of university students found women were more likely to initiate violence. Even if the nations selected by I-VAWA disportionately victimize women, a significant number of male victims would also exist there.

In one place, the act acknowledges male victims. A Tanzanian survey on violence against children is quoted: “nearly 3 in 10 females and 1 in 7 males experienced sexual violence prior to the age of 18.” The sentence immediately following states that abused boys are “significantly more likely” to commit domestic violence as men. Abused boys are acknowledged only to point out a risk factor for females.

The other reference to males is on the need to engage them in reducing violence. ‘How’ is not specified. Legal sanctions and judicial enforcement are mentioned repeatedly, however. Presumably, males would be engaged as actual or potential abusers.

I-VAWA’s exclusion of males will be justified by the targeting nations which severely abuse females. That begs the question. The targeting itself is a dismissal of males. Moreover, recognizing male victims would not change the training of police and judges unless such training views females as the only victims. Moreover, some I-VAWA programs impact males as much as females; for example, stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS.

To retain females as the only victims, I-VAWA must control discussion by controlling data. Predictably, I-VAWA mandates data collection through a super-agency to coordinate “the Department of State and...the international programs of all other Federal agencies.” The coordinating agency would produce “original research or analysis” and establish standards to judge data, including existing research. Until the findings exist, however, no knows whether an accurate ratio of male-to-female victims will be reflected.

The final step in controlling data is to entrench false information. A recent occurrence provides insight.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder supports PC feminism. On December 18, 2013, the Washington Post fact checker ran findings on Holder’s 2009 claim that intimate-partner homicide was the leading cause of death for black women ages 15 to 45. The Department of Justice (DOJ) website posted the statistic and it spread from there. The statement is false. The Washington Post reported, “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that, for the year 2008...cancer, heart disease, unintentional injury and HIV/AIDS all topped homicide. Then if you break out intimate-partner homicide, that ends up being seventh or eighth on the list.”

The fact checking occurred because Mark J. Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan-Flint, persistently protested the inaccuracy. He finally contacted the Washington Post. A DOJ representative assured the newspaperthat the inaccuracy would be corrected. After a month and more protests, the inaccuracy remains in the text but an odd ‘non-correction correction’ appears at the bottom of the web page.

Laws such as I-VAWA rely on official data that becomes official ‘fact.’ The fact produces funding. The funding enables political or ideological goals. Truth and debate fall away. I-VAWA revictimizes every male victim by denying his existence. This is another reason why I-VAWA must be rejected.


Wendy McElroy is a Research Fellow at The Independent Institute. Her books include the Independent Institute volumes, Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century, and Freedom, Feminism, and the State.

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