Lantos, Maloney Bill Shines Spotlight on Rights of Women Around the World

Oct 3, 2007
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) introduced legislation that would create federal offices to monitor and help promote women’s rights around the world.  The International Women’s Freedom Act (H.R. 3728) would establish a Commission on International Women’s Rights and a special office in the State Department, the Office on International Women’s Rights, that would be charged with advancing women’s rights abroad and advising the President and Secretary of State on such matters.

“This is a vitally important initiative,” said Lantos, who is the founding co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.  “Women’s rights are human rights.  In order to strengthen the role of human rights promotion in U.S. foreign policy, we need to develop effective tools to challenge governments that discriminate against or fail to protect the rights of women.”

“Expanding opportunities for women not only improves their position in society, but also has a positive impact on burgeoning democracies,” said Maloney. “Unfortunately, in many countries, women are still being subjected to brutal honor killings, forced to obey repressive social norms, and rendered invisible in the eyes of the law.  This bill recognizes that fighting for women’s rights should be an integral part of U.S. foreign policy if we want to eliminate brutal totalitarian regimes.”

The International Women’s Freedom Act is modeled after the legislation that created the United States International Commission on Religious Freedom in 1998.  The Commission on International Religious Freedom has made substantial progress towards expanding religious liberty in repressive countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan.

The International Women’s Freedom Act would better equip the U.S. government to condemn violations of women’s rights and gender equality around the world, and advocate for the improvement of women’s status and equality.  The bill would also allow the President to block U.S. security and development assistance to governments found to be engaged in gross violations of women’s rights.