SAFE FROM THE START ACT
The Safe from the Start Act (H.R. 4092) works to address gender-based violence at the onset of humanitarian emergencies so that we can prevent it or address its impacts early.
These issues are a matter of life and death for many women and girls caught in crises. Nearly 1 in 5 women experience sexual violence during a humanitarian setting. Please ask your representative today to co-sponsor the Safe from the Start Act and protect women and girls from gender-based violence.
Worldwide, during times of crises, the gender-based violence (GBV) increases as chaos and tensions within households, communities and society grows. An estimated 1 in 5 refugee or displaced women in complex humanitarian settings have experienced sexual violence, a likely underestimation given the barriers associated with disclosure.[i] In conflicts, GBV is often used by armed actors as a tactic to intimidate and to exert power and control over the opposing side. GBV in emergencies includes increased levels of child marriage, intimate partner violence (IPV); rape as a tactic of war; human trafficking; sexual assault or exploitation; and other harmful practices such as female genital cutting.
Gaps in services and humanitarian protection frameworks have made it difficult to adequately prevent GBV in humanitarian contexts and mitigate or respond to its impacts. Humanitarian agencies are often underequipped to address GBV specifically or close gaps in services and accountability that have led directly to GBV, such as the exploitation of women in exchange for supplies by aid workers. To address this, the humanitarian donor community has begun investing in building standards, guidelines, and capacity of humanitarian actors to respond better to the needs of women and girls in emergencies. The world’s leaders, including the United States, have made commitments to prioritize this issue through policy and programming.
Currently, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are implementing the Start Initiative as a commitment on behalf of the U.S. Government to help prevent, mitigate, and respond to GBV at the onset of an emergency. The goal of the Safe from the Start Initiative is “to reduce the incidence of GBV and ensure quality services for survivors from the very onset of emergencies through timely and effective humanitarian action.” Specifically, the initiative has three aims: 1) increasing dedicated GBV interventions, 2) integrating GBV risk mitigation across all humanitarian sectors, and 3) increasing accountability at the global level. Responses initiated under Safe from the Start guidelines have created such innovative projects from increasing lighting in refugee communities, to the creation of sexual and gender-based violence safe spaces, to safe access to technology for displaced women.
The Safe from the Start Act would support the initiative’s ongoing work to protect and prevent violence against women and girls in humanitarian emergencies by codifying it and providing Congressional oversight over its implementation.
Specifically, the Safe from the Start Act will:
- Codify the existing Safe from the Start Initiative at the State Department and USAID to ensure continuity of attention and resources to this critical issue;
- Update objectives for the Initiative, including aims related to protection and empowerment of women and girls in emergencies, and broad partnerships to improve and scale up capacity; and
- Establish a Congressional reporting requirement to ensure accountability towards the objectives and goals of the Safe from the Start Initiative.