Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How is violence against women seen in the Baha’i Faith?

The equality of women and men is a central principle of the Baha’i Faith. For this and other reasons, acts of violence and any act whether physical, emotional, economic or social that would cause harm to women or men is to be shunned. The national governing body of the Baha’is of the United States, writes, in a handbook published on domestic violence, that “acts of domestic violence are at complete variance with the teachings of Baha’u’llah and that violence in the family is a practice to be condemned. In addition, domestic violence is a criminal act in the United States. Such behaviors, on the part of either men or women, are rooted in longstanding social practices connected with an inability or unwillingness to apply the fundamental spiritual principle of the equality of women and men and to recognize the fundamental right of every human being to be treated with consideration and respect.” Violence against women is a violation of one of the central principles of the Baha’i Faith. It is also a human rights violation and an obstacle to social and economic development in all areas of society. Baha’is work on this issue at many levels, especially via educational initiatives in local communities.

2. What do local Baha’i communities do to confront domestic violence situations in communities?

In 2002, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the U.S. developed a manual intended primarily for Local Spiritual Assemblies confronted with a situation of domestic violence in their Baha’i communities. Individuals and groups are also welcome to examine it.

3. What is CEDAW and why is it important?

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women or “CEDAW,” also referred to as the “Treaty for the Rights of Women,” is the first and only international instrument to comprehensively address women’s rights within political, cultural, economic, social and family life. The United Nations adopted CEDAW on December 18, 1979. The creation of this treaty was the first critical step in developing appropriate human rights language for women.

4. How have the U.S. Baha’is supported CEDAW?

Representatives of the Baha’is of the United States have been active members of the U.S.-based CEDAW Working Group since its inception, and served as co-chairs for 10 years. This network of more than 100 national organizations advocates for U.S. ratification of CEDAW. In 2001, the office compiled and edited the ‘Rights That Benefit the Entire Community’ booklet, a CEDAW education and advocacy tool. More than 15,000 copies were distributed to the public and members of Congress. A second expanded edition of the book was published in the spring 2004.

5. What is the current status of CEDAW?

As of early 2012, 187 countries (out of 195) have ratified CEDAW. The United States is not on that list, even though it participated in drafting the treaty, and President Jimmy Carter signed it and sent it to the U.S. Senate for advice and consent in 1980. U.S. ratification of CEDAW would require the assent of two-thirds of the Senate.

6. What is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)?

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a United States law that extends protections to women (and men) who are the victims of domestic or sexual violence. VAWA was passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000, 2005, and 2013. Since its passage, the law has established new federal crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking; provided more support to domestic violence shelters; created collaboration between criminal justice, social service, and non-profit entities; and developed legal assistance programs for victims. The United States Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women writes about VAWA: “VAWA was designed to improve criminal justice responses to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking and to increase the availability of services for victims of these crimes. VAWA requires a coordinated community response (CCR) to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, encouraging jurisdictions to bring together players from diverse backgrounds to share information and to use their distinct roles to improve community responses to violence against women. These players include, but are not limited to: victim advocates, police officers, prosecutors, judges, probation and corrections officials, health care professionals, leaders within faith communities, and survivors of violence against women. The federal law takes a comprehensive approach to violence against women by combining tough new penalties to prosecute offenders while implementing programs to aid the victims of such violence.”

7. How have Baha’is been engaged with VAWA?

The U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs (OPA) has worked alongside other like-minded organizations to raise congressional awareness about the need to reauthorize VAWA. It actively participates in the Interfaith Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, which advocates for policies and programs to curtail these forms of violence. This coalition consists of more than 20 faith organizations and represents millions of believers, including the Baha’is.

8. What is I-VAWA?

The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) is an important proposed piece of federal legislation that responds to and addresses the epidemic of violence against women globally. It was introduced in the 110th, 111th, 112th and 113th Congresses. I-VAWA is also meant to help support survivors, hold perpetrators accountable, and increase U.S. diplomatic attention to decreasing violence against women. To find out more about I-VAWA, see the I-VAWA toolkit, which provides information on the history, purpose and importance of the International Violence Against Women Act.

9. How have Baha’is been engaged with I-VAWA?

The U.S. Baha’is work with a large network of nongovernmental organizations in advocating for passage of this legislation and have for many years been involved in legislative advocacy efforts to turn I-VAWA into law. At the local level, U.S. Baha’is work to draw attention to and combat gender based violence.