Justice delayed is not always justice denied. The Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) was finally reauthorized on February 28 after a long delay. Important sections were added to protect Native Americans and human trafficking victims. Rep. Karen Bass (D. CA) spoke out on the passing of the VAWA.
“After an unnecessary delay of more than 500 days, the House today finally did the right thing and passed commonsense legislation protecting battered women from their abusers. Protections were extended to those most in need of a helping hand, including battered women who are Native American, immigrants and LGBT. Because of VAWA, tribes have the authority to prosecute non-Indians who commit domestic violence against their Indian spouses or dating partners and that is a tremendous step forward in protecting Native American women from these senseless acts of violence.”
“Reauthorizing VAWA says once and for all that violence against women is wrong and should not be tolerated in our society, regardless of immigration status, residence, or sexual orientation. Under VAWA, states will be given more funding to vigorously prosecute sexual and domestic violence offenders and can also qualify for money to provide key services to victims. The bill also reauthorizes the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, providing critical support for trafficking victims and helping to ensure traffickers are brought to justice.”
The VAWA passed the House 286-138. Of course, all 138 votes were cast by Republicans. 27 House Republicans voted against both the Senate bill and the watered down House version which failed. Every woman Senator regardless of party voted in favor of the bill. And the House passed the version submitted by the Senate which added stronger protections for Native American women, undocumented women and LGBT victims.
The main hold up this time in reauthorizing the VAWA was adding stronger protections for Native American women, LGBT and undocumented women. Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, herself a rape victim, paraphrased the question of rights activist Sojourner Truth, a 19th century escaped slave and civil rights advocate who said, “Ain’t they women?” Moore stated her reference to the inclusion of Native American, undocumented immigrant and LGBT women.
The VAWA Act has helped to save the lives of women with stronger protections against domestic violence. And with each reauthorization, it gets stronger—despite opposition to the contrary. The bill is now finally headed to President Obama’s desk for signing. And he’s been waiting a long time to sign it. It is fitting that the VAW bill was signed on the anniversary of 100 years of the march for women’s suffrage which is Sunday, March 3. And the fight for greater protections and freedoms for women continues.