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On International Women’s Day, Bipartisan Bill Recognizes Women’s Unique Roles in Countering Violent Extremism, Protects Those at Risk

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Washington, March 8, 2019 | comments

Washington, DC – Today, on International Women’s Day, Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL-21), Steve Chabot (R-OH-01), Joe Wilson (R-SC-02), Bill Keating (D-MA-09), Lee Zeldin (R-NY-01), and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) introduced bipartisan legislation to improve U.S. counterterrorism and peacebuilding efforts by focusing on women’s roles as victims, perpetrators, and preventers of violent extremism.

“Women are often the first victims of violent extremism, and as mothers and wives, they are on the frontlines of detecting radicalization and countering terrorism,” said Rep. Frankel. “This bipartisan bill encourages full participation of women in our efforts to defeat this global threat.”

"Women play a unique role when it comes to combatting violent extremism around the globe. While it is well known that women are often the victims of extremist groups who push them into forced marriages or human trafficking networks, less attention has been paid to the contributions women can make in preventing the rise of violent extremism in the first place,” said Rep. Chabot. “In many areas of the world, women are uniquely positioned to notice the first signs of radicalization in their families and communities. The legislation we are introducing today recognizes that fact, and directs our counterterrorism programs to include women as partners in the effort to combat the rise of extremism."

“Sadly, many women and children are the prime targets of terrorist groups. Some participate voluntarily, but many are forced to act as facilitators and recruiters on behalf of these radical organizations,” said Rep. Wilson. “The Women and Countering Violent Extremism Act is important legislation that helps provide support for women to stand up against violence and radicalism. I’m grateful for the leadership of Congresswoman Lois Frankel on this critical matter.”

“Women are at the center of our communities all around the world, so we must focus our attention on how women are part of our counterterrorism efforts,” said Rep. Keating.  “As members of civil society organizations, government and security personnel, mothers, educators, and their countless other roles in society, women often bring entirely different perspectives to bear on detecting early warning signs of extremism, reporting on acts of violence, or identifying the best ways forward to reduce terrorist recruitment in their communities. Women therefore must be empowered as meaningful participants in any efforts to combat violent extremism around the world.”

“This bill is a necessary step toward combatting the rise of destabilizing trends and extremist ideologies around the globe. Women are often uniquely situated to spot early signs of radicalization in children and family members, and to address the root causes of violent extremism in their communities,” said Rep. Spanberger. “This bill promotes women’s involvement in U.S. and partner nation efforts to thwart terrorism and extremism overseas. By empowering and equipping a group that makes up one half of the global population, we can greatly increase our capacity to address threats to American national security.”

When it comes to violent extremism and terrorism, U.S. government policy and programs focus too little on the roles women play as victims, perpetrators, and preventers. Building on the Women, Peace and Security Act, the Women and Countering Violent Extremism Act would account for women’s diverse roles in violent extremism, and promote the meaningful participation of women in U.S. government efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism and terrorism.

The Women and Countering Violent Extremism Act achieves this by:

  • Authorizing assistance to support women-led and women’s empowerment civil society organizations working on countering violent extremism and terrorism;
  • Mandating that appropriate State and Defense Department officials receive training in how to facilitate women’s participation in countering violent extremism and terrorism in their communities;
  • Directing the State Department to seek to double the number of women trained in Antiterrorism Assistance programs and to encourage foreign countries to include women participating in such activities;
  • Authorizing the Defense Department, State Department and USAID to research the intersection of women and countering violent extremism;
  • Ensuring future relevant U.S. government strategies account for women’s varied roles in countering violent extremism and terrorism; and
  • Requiring the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism to address gender-specific drivers of radicalization and terrorist recruitment strategies in at least five pilot countries.

Full bill text can be found here.

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