US Congress Reauthorizes Violence Against Women Act

Guest Contributor - 1st March 2013

By Chelsea Purvis – 

The United States Congress has for many months been debating the future of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  As I explained in my previous post, VAWA is the principle federal law addressing gender-based violence in the US.  When VAWA expired in 2012, the Senate drafted a reauthorization bill (S.47) that provides needed reforms to VAWA.  S.47 extends tribal jurisdiction over non-Natives in cases of domestic violence, and it expands protections for immigrants and LGBT victims of abuse.

Conservative Republicans in the House objected to the Senate’s bill.  They drafted their own reauthorization bill, excluding most of the Senate’s reforms.  But public pressure mounted on the House to drop its opposition to VAWA reforms. 1,300 American human rights organizations sent a letter to the House urging it to pass S.47.

By Tuesday it became clear that conservative Republicans in the House no longer had enough support to pass their alternative reauthorization bill.  The House then agreed on Wednesday to vote on the House’s version and then, if that bill failed to pass (as expected), to vote on S.47.

Yesterday, the US House rejected the House’s version and passed S.47 in a vote of 286-138.  President Obama will now sign the bill into law, reauthorizing VAWA and adding crucial protections for Native Americans, LGBT people, and immigrants.

Chelsea Purvis is a Yale Law School legal fellow at Minority Rights Group International in London (the opinions expressed in this post are her own).  She received her M.Phil. from Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in 2008.

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