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home : commentary : commentary June 25, 2016

March is Women's History Month ... So,
"Where are women's rights?" asks these Minnesota women policymakers

by Senators Melisa Franzen, Kari Dziedzic, Katie Sieben, Susan Kent and Sandy Pappas; Representatives Connie Bernardy, Phyllis Kahn, Rena Moran and Sandra Masin; and Ramsey County Commissioner Mary Jo McGuire

Women's History Month is an important opportunity to promote women's rights and equal participation in society. And more work needs to be done. Acts of violence against women near and far are front-page stories. For example, female health workers offering polio vaccinations were murdered in northern Nigeria. A young Pakistani school girl, standing up for education for girls, was brutally shot in the head. A 23-year-old woman from India was gang-raped on a bus and died about two weeks later.

And in our own communities, women are too often victims of domestic violence. This past fall, Tensia Martinez Richard, a young mother of two children, was brutally killed outside a Cottage Grove shopping mall by her estranged husband. In St. Paul, Carolyn Leete, a St. Paul artist and nanny, was beaten to death by her drunken boyfriend. A Brooklyn Center woman was shot to death by her boyfriend when she tried to end the relationship. Last July, a north Minneapolis woman was shot and left to die by her boyfriend. A few years ago, an Eagan woman was shot through the front window of her home by her ex-husband.

In February, Congress voted to re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The law was first passed in 1994 to protect victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Amendments to the 2013 re-authorization bill will expand VAWA to include protections for Native American victims of domestic violence and provisions against sex trafficking.

Now, in recognition of Women's History Month, women leaders in the United States Senate plan to re-introduce the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA). Passage of this law would make ending violence against women and girls globally a top diplomatic priority. According to the World Health Organization, approximately one out of three women in the world will experience some sort of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and in some countries, up to 70 percent of women have been victims of domestic violence.

I-VAWA encourages legal accountability, supports health programs and survivor services, and promotes access to education and economic opportunities.


Violence against women and girls is a public health epidemic, a human rights violation and a barrier to solving global challenges. This violence knows no cultural or national boundaries and devastates the lives of millions of women and girls - in peacetime and in conflict.

Let's stand together and take all necessary steps to guarantee that violent attacks against women and girls are not tolerated. In commemoration of Women's History Month, we urge our Minnesota members of Congress to co-sponsor the International Violence Against Women Act. Safeguarding the human rights of women and girls supports the future progress of all nations.

These Minnesota policymakers are all active members of the Women Legislators' Lobby, a program of Women's Action for New Directions (WAND).

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