When Congress returns on Monday to finish up its 2010 business, we will have our best opportunity in years to pass the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA;HR4594/S2982). This groundbreaking, bi-partisan legislation would, for the first time, make ending gender-based violence a priority for U.S. foreign policy and international assistance. Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation and a worldwide pandemic. One in three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. It’s happening to someone right now, as you read this.

We hear every day about horrific violence against women and girls – each incident more atrocious than the last.

We need the International Violence Against Women Actbecause women light themselves on fire in Afghanistan because they can’t bear any more abuse.

We need the International Violence Against Women Actbecause women are raped by security forces on the Congo/Angola border.

We need the International Violence Against Women Actbecause women suffer sexual abuse in resettlement camps in Haiti.

I could go on.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was set to mark up the bill last month, but lawmakers postponed the meeting hours before adjourning for the election recess. Now they are back, and this work is as urgent as ever.

The time for action is now. January will bring new leadership, new faces and a new start in Congress. We need to build on the work that’s already been done, rather than starting over with a new Congress.

Let’s pass the International Violence Against Women Act this year – before one more girl is burned with acid, one more teenager is raped, one more mother suffers a brutal assault, one more woman is murdered.

For more information on the International Violence Against Women Act, click here.