US negotiating MoU with India on women`s issues

The US is in the process of negotiating a memorandum of understanding with India on women`s issues, a top Obama Administration official has informed lawmakers, saying they are "horrified" at the recent incidents of gang-rape and murder of two girls in UP.

PTI| Last Updated: Jun 26, 2014, 07:56 AM IST

Washington: The US is in the process of negotiating a memorandum of understanding with India on women`s issues, a top Obama Administration official has informed lawmakers, saying they are "horrified" at the recent incidents of gang-rape and murder of two girls in UP.

"We are in the process of negotiating an MoU with the Indian government on women`s issues and I think that we`re fairly optimistic going forward," Ambassador At Large For Global Women`s Issues,Catherine M Russell, said yesterday.

She was speaking at a Congressional hearing, wherein lawmakers expressed deep concern over the recent episodes of violence against women in India and urged the US Government to hold talks with the Indian Government in this regard.

"Obviously the stories of the gang-rape hangings are absolutely horrifying. The interesting thing is that the Indian public had a very strong reaction to that as well and I think the politicians there are responding," Russell said.

It`ll be very interesting to see how the new Prime Minister reacts to this and we`re hopeful that there will be a positive and forward-thinking reaction, she added.
"We are engaged in a dialogue with the Indian government and a women`s empowerment dialogue. That`s been going," she said.

Referring to the talks with the Indian Government on the MoU, Russell said the Obama administration has been talking to them about gender-based violence issues and places that the US can share experiences with them.

"At this point I`m somewhat hopeful that this will be a positive effort going forward. But you know, it`s obviously we`re waiting to see how this government reacts to these," she said.

Chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on "Combating Violence and Discrimination Against Women: A Global Call to Action”, Senator Barbara Boxer said US lawmakers last month were horrified to learn that two young girls in India were murdered after being brutally raped.

"And tragically, attacks against women are all too common in India," she said.

"So, I wrote to India`s newly-elected Prime Minister urging him to take immediate action to combat violence and improve the safety and security of women and girls," Boxer said, adding India is not the only country.
"Just last month, two young Indian girls were found dead, hanging from a tree after they had been raped and strangled.”

“In Pakistan, a 25-year-old pregnant woman was stoned to death by her family for marrying against their wishes. In April, more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted from their boarding school by the terrorist group Boko Haram," she said.

"Tragically, even in the year 2014, the state of women around the world remains precarious. Every day women and girls endure horrific acts of violence in their homes and communities. Women are raped, beaten, disfigured by acid, forcibly married, trafficked and sold as slaves," Boxer said.

"They are denied basic rights such as the opportunity to get an education, to see a doctor, try to make a living outside of the home, simply because of their gender," she added.

In her testimony, Russell said gender-based violence, which we have seen splashed across the front pages of newspapers most recently in India, Nigeria, Pakistan?as well as here in the United States?is a global epidemic.

"It crosses every social and economic class, ethnicity, race, religion, and education level, and transcends international borders.

It takes the form of intimate partner violence, early and forced marriages, sexual violence, acid attacks, and traditional harmful practices such as female genital mutilation/cutting," she said.

"And it is widespread. Worldwide, an estimated one in three women will be physically or sexually abused in her lifetime, and one in five will experience rape or attempted rape.
In some places, especially in conflict zones, these statistics are even higher. This violence doesn`t only affect women and girls, but it threatens entire communities, precludes economic growth, and fuels cycles of violence and conflict," Russell said.