Category: National News

Washington, DC - The American Psychological Association marked the one-year anniversary of the Boko Haram abductions of over 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria by calling on Congress to take action to ensure the basic rights of women and girls worldwide to live a life free of persecution and violence. 

“We must work to end the abhorrent prevalence of gender-based violence around the world, and to have systems in place to provide girls with safe access to educational and other opportunities for healthy development. We must fight to ensure that girls and women everywhere, including in the United States, exercise the human rights to which they are entitled,” said Gwendolyn P. Keita, PhD, executive director of APA’s Public Interest Directorate.

APA has urged its members to contact their members of Congress to encourage them to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, a United Nations convention adopted in 1979 that defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets forth an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. Despite the great number of signatories among world nations, the United States has not ratified the convention.

APA is also urging its members to push for passage of the International Violence Against Women Act. This legislation would integrate gender-based violence prevention and response efforts into all U.S. government programming overseas and make ending violence against women and girls a diplomatic and foreign assistance priority for the United States. 

One year ago, Boko Haram, a group of militant Islamist extremists, abducted 276 girls from their school in Chibok, Nigeria. To date, the whereabouts of the vast majority of these girls remains unknown. This tragedy highlights the ongoing global challenges that many children face — a lack of security, freedom, rights and control over their own bodies and fate. 

“This appalling loss reminds us that violence against women and girls is a global health crisis and a human rights violation that contributes to political and economic instability. When women and girls live in poverty, have limited educational and job opportunities, are not valued within social and government structures, and become targets of violence, they cannot thrive and achieve their full potential,” said Shari Miles-Cohen, PhD, director of APA’s Women’s Programs Office. 

To mark the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of the Nigerian schoolgirls, a group of psychologists has crafted a call to action to the international community stated as concrete recommendations, grounded in international human rights standards and psychological science, to prevent, reduce and eliminate trafficking and other forms of violence against women and girls. Numerous APA divisions and the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology have endorsed the call to action. This effort draws upon APA’s policies dating to 1988 related to ending human trafficking and violence against children by governments, and supporting the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and human rights more broadly.  

APA has also long supported the rights of women and girls to live free from persecution. In March 2014, APA released a Report on the Task Force on Trafficking of Women and Girls, which highlights the problem of human trafficking of U.S. women and girls, points out shortcomings in current policies and calls for more research and public education to address this serious international problem. 

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes more than 122,500 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.