President Clinton, noting that a woman is beaten in America every 12 seconds, signed legislation reinforcing the Violence Against Women Act by covering women abused by their boyfriends, helping battered immigrant women and attacking international traffic in human beings.
The new law, he said in his weekly radio address Saturday, is "the most significant step we've ever taken to secure the health and safety of women at home and around the world."
Domestic violence is the No. 1 health risk for women between the ages of 15 and 44, Clinton said. Almost a third of women killed in the U.S. are victims of husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends.
"Every 12 seconds, another woman is beaten," he said. "That's nearly 900,000 victims every year."
Presenting the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act as an example of congressional bipartisanship in action, Clinton also urged Congress to complete its work on the federal budget.
"It's time for Congress to set partisanship aside on the last two unfinished bills and complete a budget with smaller class sizes, modern classrooms, family tax cuts and a higher minimum wage," Clinton said, itemizing his budget priorities.
The anti-violence bill Clinton signed also contains a provision to help stop what the president called the "insidious global practice" of trafficking in human beings.
"Every year, 1 million or more women, children and men are forced or tricked into lives of utter misery--into prostitution, sweatshop work, domestic or farm labor or debt bondage," he said. "This is slavery, plain and simple."
It's not just a problem in foreign countries, he said. "Each year, as many as 50,000 people are brought to the United States for this cruel purpose."
The legislation sets harsh penalties for those who trade in human beings. It requires convicted traffickers to forfeit assets and make restitution to those they have exploited. And it gives victims better access to shelters, counseling and medical care.
It also increases U.S. assistance to other countries to help them track down and punish offenders and provides sanctions for nations that refuse to act against the practice.
The law reauthorizes and strengthens the Violence Against Women Act, passed in 1994.
The new law continues to provide money for grant programs to help police investigate violence against women and provide victims' services. It expands the investigation and prosecution of crimes of violence against women and continues to fund the National Domestic Violence hotline. It also provides new protections for mistreated immigrants.