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US Violence Against Women Act stripped of protection for minority groups

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Catherine Scott
WVoN co-editor

Last Wednesday, the US House Judiciary Committee passed HR 4970, a version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) criticised by feminists and anti-domestic violence groups for stripping the previous version of its protection for minority groups.

S.1925 which included new protections for LGBT people, Native women and immigrants, passed the Senate on April 26 this year.

Despite the fact that VAWA was reauthorised by Congress in 2000 and 2005 with unanimous Senate cross-party support, Republican resistance suddenly emerged this time around, with only 15 Republicans (but including all the Republican female senators), voting for the passage of S.1925.

Republican objections have centred around the new provisions designed to protect minorities.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has been vocal in opposing the expansion of special visas available to immigrant victims of domestic violence, stating that immigrants may falsify accounts of domestic violence in order to obtain a green card.

Grassley also objects to the section which prohibits state administrators from discriminating against LGBT victims of domestic violence, as he claims there is no proof that LGBT people are discriminated against by the police or domestic violence shelters.

In addition, Republicans have stated their opposition to new passages in the bill which would allow Native tribes to prosecute violent non-Natives living or working on tribe land – even though this provision is entirely constitutional.

The Republican objections resulted in the proposal of an alternative bill, HR 4970 – also known as the Cantor/Adams bill – which removes the provisions for Native, immigrant and LGBT victims of domestic violence, and also eliminates protection for students on college campuses.

This was passed by the House Judiciary Committee with votes split almost exactly down party lines.

The full House of Representatives will now vote on the bill this Wednesday, despite condemnation from groups such as the National Task Force To End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, which state that HR 4970 is “not the real VAWA” and that the bill is “anti-victim” and “dangerous”.

Feminist commentators have suggested that the watered-down bill is yet another symptom of the Republican party’s ‘War on Women’.

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