Violence Against Women Act Heads to President’s Desk
Since the expiration of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in September of 2011, the bill has been in limbo in the House. Republicans and Democrats have been at odds over the wording of the bill, with each party objecting to each other’s version of the bill.
After a year of bickering, the House finally passed a reauthorization of VAWA. The legislation passed the House by a vote of 286 to 138, with a majority of the GOP voting against the bill and all Democrats voting for the bill.
President Barack Obama called the reauthorization of the bill “an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear.” He also stated, “Over more than two decades, this law has saved countless lives and transformed how we treat victims of rape, and extending protections to Native American women and members of the LGBT community.”
The same version of this bill was approved by an overwhelming majority of the Senate last month.
VAWA was first sponsored by Vice President Joe Biden in 1994 when he was a senator. Vice President Biden spoke at a violence prevention event Thursday and thanked those who fought for the reauthorization of the bill.
The passage of VAWA is a major step forward for women’s human rights and the reauthorization of this act now expands protections for Native American women, immigrant women, and for the LGBT community. This legislation restores tribal criminal jurisdiction over all persons committing violence against Native American women within Indian country, whereas before, tribal authorities had no jurisdiction to prosecute those non-Native abusers. Another benefit of VAWA is now tribal courts can issue protective orders.
The act also ensures that LGBT victims of domestic violence will not face discrimination based upon their sexual orientation and gender identity and will be able to access life-saving support services.
The expansion of the Violence Against Women Act is a cause for celebration as VAWA has made a difference in the lives and safety of numerous women in the past, and now will have an even greater impact on women in the future.