As a mirror of the ugliest as well as holiest aspects of human nature, it is no surprise that Torah provides both examples of and admonitions against violence directed at women. The weak-willed Lot’s willingness to sacrifice his daughters to the mob in Sodom is perhaps the most vivid instance, but examples abound of women treated as objects or property. The Torah’s intention, writes feminist scholar Judith Plaskow, is to encourage us to “strengthen our resolve to hold both ourselves and God accountable to standards of justice that we recognize and value — and yet continually violate.”
When it returns from summer recess, Congress has an opportunity to uphold standards of justice by passing the International Violence Against Women Act (S. 2307), introduced by a bipartisan group of senators (including New Jersey’s Robert Menendez). Supporters of the legislation note that one in three women worldwide will experience a form of physical or sexual violence at some point in her lifetime.
IVAWA calls for a comprehensive U.S. response that includes making the issue part of U.S. foreign assistance programs, supporting overseas nongovernmental and community-based organizations that work to end violence against women and girls, and improving methods for tracking investments in programs that address gender-based violence.
A number of Jewish groups are urging members of Congress to pass IVAWA, including the American Jewish World Service, NCJW, and Jewish Women International. The New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking, whose leaders include the Community Relations Committee of Greater MetroWest, is also urging supporters to contact their lawmakers.
As a people committed to justice, we mustn’t lose this opportunity to address the plight of millions of vulnerable women. To find out more and sign a petition, go to ajws.org.