Monday in Washington, D.C. the National Mall was packed with hundreds of thousands of eager people who witnessed President Barack Obama sworn in for his second term. During his speech, President Obama reminded us of our “vow to move forward together” on the challenges we face together as a country. Today, we say to Congress: time for you to move together to pass an inclusive Violence Against Women Act!
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have just announced that the two chambers are jointly reintroducing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a law that since 1994 has sent the message that violence against women is criminal and that has helped to ensure that the millions of women who experience domestic and sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking receive the protection and support they need.
VAWA fell prey to partisan politics in the 112th Congress but today, the new Congress must seize this opportunity to reaffirm and uphold the right of all women to a violence-free life. Congress must reauthorize VAWA with provisions to extend protections to Native American and Alaska Native women, immigrant women, and LGBT individuals.
Why are these new provisions so important? Because Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the USA and yet they are rarely able to access justice.
This new Congress has the opportunity to expand and solidify the United States’ commitment to ensuring that all individuals are treated equally. The reauthorization of VAWA takes the U.S. one step closer to realizing the fundamental human rights that this country can and must embrace. On Monday, the President renewed his vow to keep the United States moving forward and now it’s time for the new Congress to do the same.