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Interview With Lyric Winik of Parade Magazine

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
March 12, 2008

SECRETARY RICE: Hello?

QUESTION: Hello.

SECRETARY RICE: Hi, how are you?

QUESTION: Good. Thank you for taking the time to speak, Secretary Rice.

SECRETARY RICE: Sure.

QUESTION: So first of all, I understand that, you know, you had this summit today to discuss some of the issues of violence against women. And what advances came out of this? What – you know, what goals did you set, what did you --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, this is an opportunity for a group of very eminent women, 17 different countries represented, to share best practices and to talk about how this effort might be carried forward. And I look forward to hearing the ideas that they come up with, but I think a couple of things came through to me.

One is that there has to be more of a focus on the enforcement of laws because laws are on the books in almost every country. The second is that women in conflict, of course, are particularly vulnerable and to make this a real issue when we think about conflict resolution.

QUESTION: What are some of the specific forms of violence against women that the Administration is particularly concerned about?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we’re concerned about all forms of violence against women, but for instance, this President has been very actively involved in the trafficking-in-persons issue. We created an office that issues reports on trafficking-in-persons. I can tell you that we’ve been – when we list countries for not dealing with the problems of trafficking-in-persons, we get a response because nobody wants to be on that list. We think it’s a form of modern-day slavery and it’s something that the modern world should not tolerate. And so violence is very often associated with trafficking and it’s been one of the efforts – the President announced this at the UN several years ago – it’s been one of the efforts he’s been most associated with.

QUESTION: In addition to this list, are there any other specific efforts that the U.S. is undertaking to try to combat this?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it’s not just a list. We have three tiers of countries and let’s say that we find that a country is in – is not making progress. We actually have an ambassador who goes out and works on a program with that country to address it. Sometimes, it’s as simple as having shelters available to women. Sometimes, it’s an absence of prosecutorial zeal or capacity in going after people who are traffickers. Sometimes, it’s just women not having information about their rights on these issues. And so we try, we – it’s not a just list and leave, so to speak. It’s really to try to work with countries to improve their record on trafficking.

QUESTION: What do you think that – what has most surprised and outraged you to learn – you know, what specific facts really outraged you when you began to look at this issue and the problems associated with it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, a couple. One is a statistic that I heard again today, that one in three women will experience domestic violence with a relative or partner or – during their lifetime. That’s really a startling statistic. But also, again, going back to the trafficking issues, I think trafficking is more widespread than people might know and it exists in even countries that are democratic. And very often, it’s because the laws don’t cover certain kinds of activities that need to be covered. So I’ve been just continually surprised at these issues in the modern world and finally, just access to justice for women.

QUESTION: One of the things that’s particularly difficult is that when you talk about conflict resolution, you know, we’ve had some terrible circumstances for women, particularly in Afghanistan and then also even in Iraq and -- you know, are there things that we can do in our own involvement and in these countries, you know, even though they are part of the war on terror, to try to mitigate some of the issues for women there or more things that we can do?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, absolutely. First of all, these are young democracies and they have to develop the institutions and a rule of law. They have to develop justice systems that are functional. But I would just note it wasn’t so great to be a woman under the Taliban. And it wasn’t so great to be a Shia woman or a Kurdish woman under Saddam Hussein. So I think we have to look comparatively at what we’re dealing with here and you’re dealing, sometimes in this case, not with governments that don’t want to do the right thing, but governments that are not capable.

And so we spend a lot of our effort on rule of law, on developing justice systems, on developing police systems. We have had a number of international visitors programs that bring women legislators, that bring women judges, women lawyers. I just recently hosted a program with the Attorney General of Afghanistan, who is a very good man who’s trying to deal with corruption, something that very often goes hand in hand with something like trafficking. So our efforts take very much this into account. But one reason that it’s good to focus on women is that societies that isolate half their population don’t do very well. And societies where women are increasing their economic potential, we work a lot of, for instance, on micro loans to – for women entrepreneurs, you find that those are societies that are more prosperous and they’re more just.

2008/251



Released on April 7, 2008

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