Earnest efforts required to protect women

January 17, 2013

As the 112th session of Congress drew to a close on Jan. 3, its failure to renew the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) demonstrates the serious dysfunction that plagues our government. First passed in 1994 and continually renewed by Congress without conflict up to this point, the Act expired this past October and must now wait until newly-elected legislators put it on their agenda.

In April, the Senate introduced a modified reauthorization of the Act that included provisions for the protection of American Indian and undocumented immigrant women as well as LGBT individuals. Additional considerations for the groups most vulnerable to violence were much-needed, yet House Republicans claimed that they amounted to nothing more than Democratic vote-seeking. This is clearly a non-starter; American Indian women, for example, suffer from the highest rates of domestic violence in the U.S., with assault rates as much as 50 percent higher than the next most victimized demographic, according to a Department of Justice study. The Senate’s reauthorization was revolutionary in stemming this particular brand of violence, granting tribal courts the authority to prosecute non-indigenous attackers in reservations.

Unfortunately, VAWA fell victim to the partisan quibbling that has become the trademark of Congressional affairs, and ultimately died without even coming to a vote in the House. By injecting politics into what has traditionally been and should remain a nonpartisan issue, extreme elements within the GOP have once again succeeded in polarizing Congress. (https://theproctordealerships.com) Moreover, by failing to reaffirm VAWA, they have displayed an attitude of indifference toward the protection of women, an issue that is a fundamental component of a free and just society.

The original 1994 authorization served as a watershed in defending the rights of women not only because it led to the creation of the first federal legislation that acknowledged domestic violence and sexual assault as crimes, but also because it allocated federal resources to fight violence. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, there has been as much as a 51 percent increase in reporting of violence by women and a 37 percent increase by men since 1994. Additionally, for women the number of deaths from intimate-partner violence has decreased by 34 percent, as other non-fatal violence has decreased by 53 percent.

VAWA is not merely symbolic legislation and has successfully dealt with issues still facing many women in the U.S. While the achievements are substantial, we should hold no illusions that the struggle to end violence against women is over. In a society that constantly objectifies women, the protections afforded by VAWA could play an invaluable role in preventing crimes especially against the most marginalized sectors of American society. Proponents of the Act plan to reintroduce it to Congress in the upcoming year, and when they do we can only hope that a new Congress will rectify its predecessor’s failure to the American people.

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