Strengthened Violence Against Women Act an Essential and Overdue Advance for Native, LGBT and All Americans
Source Newsroom: Cornell University
As the United States Senate prepares to vote later today on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, two Cornell University scholars talk about the implications of Congressional action, and inaction.
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Elizabeth Brundige, an expert on gender-based violence issues and executive director of the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell University Law School, comments on added protections included in this legislation, and the chances for House support in this strengthened form.
“As the primary federal law providing legal protection and services to victims of domestic and sexual violence, VAWA is critical to women's safety. New provisions would expand its protections for groups that have traditionally fallen through the cracks, prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people by federally funded domestic violence programs and granting tribal courts jurisdiction to handle cases involving domestic violence committed on tribal lands against Native American women by non-Native men.
“While the bill should easily pass in the Senate, it may face a more difficult battle in the House of Representatives, where House Republicans rejected a similar reauthorization bill last year. It remains to be seen whether the House will once again oppose the bill's expanded victim protections and derail the bill, or whether, this time, it will stand with the Senate and the women of the United States against violence.”
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Eric Cheyfitz is a professor of American Studies and Humane Letters and served as director of Cornell’s American Indian Program from 2008-11. He teaches American literatures, American Indian literatures and federal Indian law, and comments on the legacy of federal inaction and the need for strong legislation legal protections for Native women.
“Federal Indian law denies Indian tribes jurisdiction over major felonies, including, of course, rape committed on reservations. While the federal government has jurisdiction in this area, it has contributed minimal human and financial resources to prosecuting violent crime in Indian country. This combination of severely circumscribed tribal jurisdiction and minimal federal commitment has resulted in an epidemic of crime on Indian reservations.
“If you think the war against American Indians begun in 1492 has ended, think about the results of the U.S. neglect of violent crime in Indian country. The VAWA gives Congress, which has ‘plenary power’ in Indian affairs, a chance to reduce some of the violence of this war. The House holding the act hostage in exchange for taking out the expansion of tribal jurisdiction in reservation rape cases is a commentary on the value the federal government places on the lives of Indian women.”
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