Congressman Chris Stewart (UT-02) joined Reps. Meng (D-NY), Frankel (D-FL), Diaz-Balart (R-FL), and Houlahan (D-PA) in introducing the Safe from the Start Act. This bipartisan bill would help improve U.S. efforts to combat gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies across the globe. Following the bill’s introduction, Congressman Stewart issued the following statement:
“America will always defend and support the most vulnerable—at home and abroad. In times of crisis and conflict, Americans continuously step up and show compassion through leading humanitarian efforts. This bill builds on those values by ensuring children and women across the world are protected from gender-based violence.” – Rep. Chris Stewart
More about the Safe from the Start Act:
Incidences of gender-based violence have been proven to increase dramatically during emergencies, whether they be natural disasters, war, or pandemics. Since the onset of COVID, the impact of the virus has increased exposure of women and girls to domestic violence, lack of access to medicine and telehealth, and disruptions in income. Crises like COVID exacerbate risks for gender-based violence, which is exactly what Safe from the Start is set up to mitigate. In fact, an estimated 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual violence during humanitarian emergencies, although the numbers are likely higher given the barriers associated with disclosure.
This legislation would improve upon and codify the Department of State-United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Safe from the Start Initiative, a program to prevent, mitigate, and respond to the needs of women and girls in international crises like natural disasters, war, or pandemics. It would also provide Congress oversight of its implementation.