Update on Native Women and the Violence Against Women Act

Apr 13, 2012

Native American Legislative Update - April 2012

Congress returns from the spring recess on April 16 for a two-week work session. In the remaining two weeks in April, the Senate may take up legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) (S. 1925). This legislation includes important tribal provisions that will close loopholes that allowed abusers to escape prosecution, many of which the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approved in the "Stand Against Violence and Empower (SAVE) Native Women Act" (S. 1763). The bill has 60 co-sponsors and should gain Senate approval easily.

However, tribal advocates are concerned that when the bill is brought to the Senate floor, a handful of senators may offer amendments to delete two key tribal provisions from the bill. One provision (section 904) would authorize concurrent tribal jurisdiction, along with the appropriate state or federal government, to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence any person - Indian or non-Indian - who assaults an Indian spouse, intimate partner, or dating partner, or who violates a protection order in Indian Country. The other provision (section 905) would make certain that a tribal court has full civil jurisdiction to issue and enforce certain protection orders involving any person, also whether Indian or non-Indian. Here in Washington, we are lobbying senators to support the VAWA reauthorization with these two tribal provisions intact as approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and to vote against any amendment to strike them from the bill or amend them so that this tribal jurisdiction would not be recognized.

In the House, action on VAWA is beginning to move as well. On March 28, Representative Moore (CA) introduced a House companion bill to S. 1925 (H.R. 4271). This measure, which already has 41 cosponsors, was referred to five House committees.

See letter to Senate from 25 faith-based groups supporting the Violence Against Women Act and provisions relating to Native women, immigrant victims of trafficking and sexual abuse, and gay and lesbian victims of domestic violence.

See Senator Leahy's floor speech opening the debate on the Violence Against Women Act, Thursday April 19, 2012.

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