Progress and Challenges on International Women’s Day
Web Editor - Published: March 8, 2013

Associate Professor Dana Harrington Conner


Professor John J. Capowski

International Women’s Day, which takes place on March 8th every year, offers a sobering opportunity to reflect on both the progress that has been made and all of the work that remains to be done in the areas of gender equality and in particular, efforts to end violence against women.

The United Nations has declared the theme for International Women’s Day 2013 to be ’“A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women,” while International Women’s Day 2013 highlights "The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum" as the theme for its 2013 website.

“The United Nation's efforts in dealing with violence against women and the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) show positive change. At the same time, the continuing violence against women, including the use of violence as a political weapon, and the stalled reauthorization of VAWA in Congress mean much more needs to be done,” says Harrisburg campus Professor John J. Capowski, who has served on the American Bar Association's Project on Educating to End Domestic Violence: Law School Programs as Resources Against Domestic Violence and worked alongside his students and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence to enact two Pennsylvania laws dealing with domestic violence.

Associate Professor Dana Harrington Conner, who directs Widener Law’s Delaware Civil Clinic (DCC), which focuses on the representation of survivors of domestic violence, says, “For victims of intimate partner violence, legal reform in the criminal context has focused on mandating the same penalty for a crime regardless of the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. In the U.S., special domestic violence courts have been established to address the unique aspects of intimate partner violence, and arrest and prosecution policies have been strengthened. In the civil context protection from abuse statutes have been passed throughout our country, many providing much needed ancillary relief unavailable for survivors by way of the criminal justice system,” says

“Here on the Widener Law Delaware campus our student interns work with the DCC in an effort to protect victims of violence. The primary focus of the DCC is the representation of survivors of intimate partner violence seeking custody of their children, protection from their abusers, as well as the enforcement of protective orders through civil contempt proceedings,” she adds.

Despite the progress, however, there remains a great deal of work to be done in the area of women’s rights in both domestic and international law. Tragedies such as the gang rape and death of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in New Dehli, India are solemn reminders of just how much more needs to be done.

“Although a great deal has been accomplished there is much more work to be done on the local, national, and international level. The oppression and marginalization of women continues due in large part because we fail to see the enormity of the problem, the social consequences that result and the root causes of violence against women,” says Harrington Conner.

“Women are beaten and abused by their intimate partners, stalked and raped. Women are the targets of honor violence, the victims of genital mutilation, and account for the majority of human trafficking victims who are often sold as sex slaves. Women continue to be at risk of violence given the economic difficulties they experience due to their gender, race, and class.

“As Hillary Clinton declared in her speech in China at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, ‘… let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.’ Today on International Women’s Day answer the call to action and find your place in the fight to end oppression,” she concludes.

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