Published On: Mon, Apr 30th, 2012

VAWA passes Senate, Indian Country happy

By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.

ONE FEATHER STAFF

 

     The Senate passed S.1925, the Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization of 2012 on Thursday, April 26 by a vote of 68-31. 

     “The Senate’s action to pass important legislation ensuring access to the life-saving resources provided by VAWA is a testament to what the Senate can do when we work together to meaningfully address needs identified by our constituents,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) who introduced the bill.  “Our consideration of this bill should serve as a model for how the Senate considers legislation, without needless procedural delays and unrelated amendments.”

     Information from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) drives home the importance of this legislation in Indian Country, “According to a study by the Department of Justice, two-in-five women in Native communities will suffer domestic violence, and one-in-three will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.  Four out of five perpetrators of these crimes are non-Indian, and cannot be prosecuted by tribal governments.” 

     Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) is the chairman of the SCIA and commented, “No longer are acts of domestic violence viewed as just family issues – now, police and private citizens work to eradicate these crimes.  But, tragically, this is not always the case on reservations, in part due to jurisdictional issues which must be fixed.” 

     He added that there are provisions in VAWA that would close jurisdictional loopholes. 

     Painttown Rep. Terri Henry has worked on women’s issues for years and related she was very happy at the news.  “Senate passage of this bill is a tremendous step forward for tribal jurisdiction over all persons perpetrating violence against Indian women.  This means that our tribal court can protect our Cherokee women from such abuse by non-Indians, provided certain Constitutional protections are met.” 

     She went on to say, “I am grateful to our Tribal leadership for supporting this important issue.  Thank you Tribal Council and Chiefs.  I am also grateful to Sen. Kay Hagan for voting in support of the VAWA bill that included the tribal provisions.  I am also very appreciative of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Administration for their support of the tribal provisions in VAWA.” 

     Rep. Henry concluded, “For months, tribal leaders, tribal coalitions and native women’s advocates have worked with their Senators and the Administration to ensure the tribal provisions remained included in the VAWA.  This win in the Senate is huge.  This means that tribes could now have local control over this specific crime on tribal lands.  Everyone deserves to be congratulated for their efforts in this win.” 

     Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) said in a statement, “I’m relieved that my Senate colleagues have put partisanship aside to move this important legislation forward. VAWA is essential to the protection and safety of women, and I urge the House to act swiftly to provide continued protection to victims of violent crimes. There should be no question or controversy about VAWA because it ensures a better future for women and children in North Carolina and around our country.”

     Jefferson Keel, NCAI president related, “Today’s vote on the VAWA reauthorization represents a historic vote for Native people and tribal sovereignty.  Now, we must turn our full attention to the House and count on the same good will and bipartisanship to turn this bill into law and make these protections a reality.” 

     The bill now heads to the House, and the House Judiciary has scheduled a mark-up on the bill for Tuesday, May 8.

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