With the help of a little star power, a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday launched an effort to pass legislation intended to funnel aid to prevent violence against women internationally.
The bill also would create new offices within the U.S. government designed to launch a comprehensive effort to fight the global causes and effects of violence against women.
Actress Ashley Judd joined with Democratic Reps. Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and international women's rights advocates to kick off the push. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, the primary Republican sponsor of the proposal, said violence against women is a national security issue for America.
"A country where women are oppressed and intimidated by violence is generally not a full functioning democracy," he said. "The Taliban and Iran are two examples that come to mind."
Delahunt, who has worked with Poe on women's issues for years, emphasized the nonpartisan nature of the proposal.
"It clearly is a piece of legislation that addresses an issue that is not partisan," Delahunt said. "It has no boundaries or parameters because it's something that, tragically, is common to most of humanity, and that is violence against women."
The bipartisan proposal has languished on Capitol Hill for several years as supporters try to engage the congressional leadership on the issue. They are hoping that Judd, an international film star, can raise its profile among lawmakers.
Judd said Tuesday that it was important to reduce the level of violence against women worldwide because abuse of women "is as diminishing to the humanity of boys and men as it is to girls and women."
Schakowsky said that "U.S. leadership is going to be critical if we're to fight abuses against our sisters around the world."
The Illinois Democrat said chances for action may be more likely now that health care legislation has been passed and partisan rancor is subsiding just a bit.
The act calls for the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development to create a five-year plan to prevent and respond to violence against women in countries with high levels of abuse. It would also fund efforts of community-based organizations to prevent and respond to violence against women.