WASHINGTON – Academy Award-winning actress Nicole Kidman urged legislators to take up the fight on international violence against women at a hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
“Violence against women and girls is perhaps the most systematic,widespread human rights violation in the world.” Kidman said to the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on international organizations,human rights and oversight. “It recognizes no borders,no race or class.”
Kidman,United Nations Development Fund for Women goodwill ambassador,said the best way for the United States to make a stand on the issue is for Congress to reauthorize the 1994 Violence Against Women Act and pass the International Violence Against Women Act.
“Violence against women is not prosecuted because it is not a top priority,” Kidman said.
The International Violence Against Women Act died without a vote in previous sessions.
Rep. Bill Delahunt,D-Mass.,chairman of the subcommittee,said violence against women is not just a women's issue but an economic and security issue.
“Women hold the key for progress and development around the world,” he said.
Both the U.S. and international versions of the Violence Against Women Act promote women's rights domestically and around the world,establish support structures for nongovernmental organizations working for women's rights and provide training in humanitarian and crisis relief.
Delahunt said he will reintroduce the international version this year and the domestic version when it is up for reauthorization in two years.
Melanne Verveer,ambassador-at-large for the State Department's Office of Global Women's Issues,said violence against women is “one of the most serious challenges of our time” and cannot be treated “solely as a women's issue.”
Verveer said there are several types of women's rights abuse that occur worldwide,including female genital mutilation,denial of education,child marriage,honor killing,human trafficking and rape.
“Around the world,the places that are the most dangerous for women also pose the greatest threats to international peace and security,” Verveer said. “The correlation is clear: where women are oppressed,governance is weak and terrorists are more likely to take hold.”
Linda Smith,former Republican House member from Washington and founder Shared Hope International,which works to stop human trafficking,said there needs to be more enforcement of women's rights around the world. She said Congress must “put teeth behind the laws.”
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher,R-Calif,the senior Republican on the subcommittee,agreed that there is not enough accountability for countries that abuse women's rights.
“Let's make demands on people who are violating women's rights,” Rohrabacher said.
Asked if Hollywood has played a role in promoting women as sex objects,Kidman answered “probably,” but said the movies industry has also “contributed to solutions.”
“I can't be responsible for all of Hollywood,but I can certainly be responsible for my own career,” she said.
Kidman said she does not take roles in movies that conflict with her beliefs on international women's rights.