January 3, 2013
Proving once again that the GOP doesn’t give a flying fig about the rights of women, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) refused to allow the the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to hit the Senate floor, choosing instead to allow the 19-year old bill to die a bloody, battered death, portending a similar fate for millions of American women.
The Violence Against Women Act was originally promoted by then-Senator Joe Biden in 1994. In 2000 and 2005 when the bill came up for renewal it was automatically passed, no questions asked. This year, though, it’s a whole new ballgame.
Last spring the Senate expanded the bill to include more specific protections for immigrants, lesbian and trans gender women, and Native Americans, and Republicans immediately started throwing up roadblocks, insisting that the new bill provided too much support for these specific communities. In essence, they’d rather eliminate protections for all women across the U.S. than pass a bill that would eliminate loopholes, specifically the loopholes regarding protections for Native American women.
Under the original bill, tribal authorities had jurisdiction over violent crimes against women that were committed on their own lands, by their own people. However, if a a non-tribal member came into their land and committed a violent crime, only federal and state authorities had jurisdiction.
This limitation of authority made it doubly difficult to prosecute offenders: Federal and state authorities have limited resources and they’re are often located hours away from tribal lands. Basically, a non-Native American male can assault, rape, and even kill a Native American woman, on Native American land, and walk away guilt-free.
The expanded version of the bill would have granted limited authority to tribal leaders, allowing them to also prosecute non-tribal members who committed violent crimes against women. According to Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) it would have protected 30 million more women in the U.S.:
“The House Republican leadership’s failure to take up and pass the Senate’s bipartisan and inclusive VAWA bill is inexcusable. This is a bill that passed with 68 votes in the Senate and that extends the bill’s protections to 30 million more women. But this seems to be how House Republican leadership operates. No matter how broad the bipartisan support, no matter who gets hurt in the process, the politics of the right wing of their party always comes first.”
Since its inception, he VAWA has had a remarkable effect: A 67 percent decrease in intimate partner violence and a 35 percent decrease in intimate partner homicides of females. More victims are reporting violent crimes because their reports are resulting in more arrests and convictions. And most important, victims of violent crimes are receiving support, counseling and protection from their abusers.
In a statement for MSNBC, Tulalip Tribe Vice Chairwoman Deborah Parker made it abundantly clear why the expanded bill is necessary:
“It’s not only Native American women. Last night, I received a call from a non-Native woman who had the perpetrator drag her to what he thought was a reservation, and you know what? He missed the mark. It wasn’t reservation land. He raped her, he abused her, he left her there for dead. And guess what–she survived! And he got a long sentence. But she had told me last night that had that been reservation land, he would’ve gotten away with it.”
National Organization for Women President Terry O’Neill believes their may be an ulterior motive for Cantor’s refusal to allow a vote on the expanded bill:
“The fight was draining the resources of the advocacy groups that have been working on re-authorization for two solid years. Many of the advocacy groups also provide services; their resources are being drained. I don’t think that’s a mistake.”