UN experts on Tuesday urged [press release] the US House of Representatives [official website] to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) [S 47, PDF] which expired in 2011. The bill is intended to increase protections for Native American and Alaskan Native women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims, and immigrant victims and their children. The legislation also give tribal courts on reservations more power to pursue cases against non-indigenous individuals who attack indigenous women on tribal land. Last year the Republican-led House and the Democratic-controlled Senate both passed renewal bills, but they were unable to reach a compromise [AP report] over the prosecutorial power of tribal courts. UN Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo [official profile, DOC] emphasized the importance of the legislation:
Since its enactment in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has played a crucial role in providing guidance to state and local level governments, and in facilitating their adequate responses to violence against women. It has steadily expanded funding to address domestic violence and, with each reauthorization, it has included historically underserved groups.The US Senate [official website] voted 78-22 [JURIST report] last week to renew the Act.
In 2011 a UN report [text, PDF] by Manjoo said that there is a continued prevalence of violence [JURIST report] and discriminatory treatment of women in the US, with a heightened impact on poor, minority and immigrant women. The report said the US has taken some positive steps with the passage of the VAWA and the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) [text, PDF], but concluded that a lack of substantive protective legislation at both the federal and state levels combined with the poor implementation of current laws was resulting in the continued prevalence of violence against women and a discrimination against victims, particularly affecting women in the military, women in detention, Native American women and other women in poor and/or immigrant communities. The report further said that rates of abuse against women are higher among the African American, Native American and immigrant communities. Last year JURIST Senior Editor Brandon Gatto argued that the VAWA should be reauthorized to better protect immigrant partners and spouses from abuse [JURIST report].