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Taking Action: Let’s End the Culture of Impunity

2 June 2011 One Comment

By Kimberly Weichel, CEO

Kim Weichel

The arrest of former International Monetary Fund (IMF) Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has highlighted once again the prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment. Yet this is not just about individual behavior. According to a report in the New York Times, his actions are quite consistent with the gender bias inherent in the IMF’s institutional policies and practice. Entitled “At I.M.F., Men on Prowl and Women on Guard”, the article states “Interviews and documents paint a picture of the Fund as an institution whose sexual norms and customs are markedly different from those of Washington, leaving its female employees vulnerable to harassment.”  Violence against women undermines human dignity.

Despite all of the policies, plans and public pronouncements, sexual harassment remains part of the culture of too many institutions, companies, churches, military and national cultures. We have seen decades of sexual-abuse allegations against the U.S. Roman Catholic Church, countries like the Congo where rape is commonplace, and companies where young women learn the way to get promoted is to sleep with the boss. It is about power, arrogance, inequality, self-centeredness and machismo. We as women need to be vigilant in speaking up, saying No, exposing the cultural norms and reporting any and all abuses!

In a recent article, “The IMF: Violating Women since 1945, Christine Anh and Kavita Ramdas describe a world where millions of women don’t speak their truth, don’t tell their dark stories, don’t reveal their horror lived every day just because they were born women. They don’t do it because they are tired of not being heard or fearful of reprisal. They are tired of men like Strauss-Kahn, powerful and in suits, believing that they can rape a black woman in a hotel room, just because they feel like it. They are tired of the police not believing them or arresting them for being sex workers. They are tired of hospitals not having rape kits. They are tired of reporting rape and being charged for adultery in Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

Activist and playwright Eve Ensler speaks for us all when she writes, “I am over a world that could allow, has allowed, continues to allow 400,000 women, 2,300 women, or one woman to be raped anywhere, anytime of any day in the Congo. The women of Congo are over it too.”

We cannot tolerate abuse at the personal level, we must refuse to condone it at the professional level, and we must challenge it every time it we see it in the policies of global institutions like the IMF. Peace X Peace is working to change this culture, to educate and engage men, and train women that harassment or abuse is a crime anywhere, anytime.

We advocate for legislation like the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) which would for the first time incorporate solutions into all U.S. foreign assistance programs–solutions such as promoting women’s economic opportunity, addressing violence against girls in school, and working to change public attitudes. Among other things, the IVAWA would make ending violence against women a diplomatic priority for the first time in U.S. history. It would require the U.S. government to respond to critical outbreaks of gender-based violence in armed conflict – such as the mass rapes now occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti–in a timely manner. And by investing in local women’s organizations overseas that are successfully working to reduce violence in their communities, the IVAWA would have a huge impact on reducing poverty, empowering millions of women in poor countries to lift themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty.

Unfortunately the 111th Congress did not pass IVAWA, but we are calling on the 112th Congress to introduce similar legislation. We’re also working with the Obama administration to incorporate policies to end violence against women and girls into existing programs. Please join us–women and men–to take a stand, and let your voice be heard.

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One Comments to “Taking Action: Let’s End the Culture of Impunity”
  1. Onni Milne says:

    I don’t think you will have much luck in achieving this goal through US policies and programs. I remember reading Eve Ensler’s comment about her visit to see Michelle Obama at the White House. The aide that was taking her to the meeting with Michelle Obama said “The DRC IS NOT ON THE TABLE.”

    Here was an opportunity for one of the most influential women in the U.S. to become involved, a lawyer who knew about human rights and justice and how the law worked, in order to stop these unspeakable crimes. They were not to be discussed. So what else is new in politics and governance.

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