The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization passed the U.S. House by a vote of 286 to 138 on February 28. The vote is a huge victory for Indian Country, as the bill’s provisions allow tribal courts to prosecute non-Native Americans for crimes committed against women on Indian lands.
VAWA’s reauthorization has been a contentious battle since its expiration in 2011. Republican opponents claimed in December that the bill’s provisions for Native Americans, gays, and illegal immigrants were politically-driven. Throughout the grueling reauthorization process, tribal representatives campaigned diligently for the inclusion of Native American provisions in the measure.
Assistant Secretary – Bureau of Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn praised the bill, stating that “American Indian women experience among the highest domestic violence victimization rates in the country and more than half of all married Indian women have non-Indian husbands.”
“This legislation provides tools to tribal governments to address the problem of domestic violence much more completely on Indian reservations,” he concluded.
President Obama is expected to quickly sign the bill into law.