The U.S. Senate is poised to vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)– a key piece of legislation that, since 1994, aims to protect women in the U.S. from terrible acts of violence and exploitation.
But critical new protections in the bill – to protect Native American women, LGBT people and immigrant women in particular – are in danger of being left out. For example, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and others have indicated they may introduce an alternative bill that would strip out the amendments in VAWA that protect Native American and Alaska Native women.
This would be a huge mistake. We need a strong bill that protects ALL women. With VAWA coming to a vote in the near future, here are five reasons (among many!) that the Senate should think twice about before gutting these new key protections:
1. Native American and Alaskan native women face domestic and sexual violence at epidemic proportions. One in 3 Native women will be raped in her lifetime. Two in five suffer from domestic violence. Nearly 86% of rapes and sexual violence are perpetrated by non-Native men.
2. Native American and Alaska Native women living in sovereign territory often face complex jurisdictional issues between state, federal, and tribal criminal justice systems, making protection, reporting, and prosecution nearly impossible. New VAWA provisions would improve access to justice for these women.
3. Immigrant women in the U.S. often face higher rates of sexual harassment and of battering than other women, yet are less able to report these crimes due to their legal status, isolation and other factors. A 2004 study in New York City, for example, found that 51% of intimate partner homicide victims were foreign-born.
4. Native women and girls are over-represented among trafficking victims in the US. Legal protections and services to victims are limited in general, and even less available to Native women. New VAWA provisions would help protect these women from sex trafficking.
5. LGBT survivors of domestic violence often face discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity when attempting to access services. New VAWA provisions would help protect LGBT people from discrimination when they are in need of help.
Don’t let Congress kick Native American women, LGBT people and immigrant women to the curb. Tell Congress to protect ALL women by supporting the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act today!
And if you’re on Twitter, please retweet this message to Senator Hutchison to leave VAWA alone:
— AmnestyInternational (@amnesty) April 20, 2012