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US House reauthorizes Violence Against Women Act

The US House of Representatives [official website] on Thursday approved [roll call vote] the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) [text, PDF; JURIST news archive] by a vote of 286-138 with seven not voting. The Senate [official website] approved [JURIST report] the same version of the bill earlier this month, and it will now go to President Barack Obama for final approval. The president welcomed [press release] the passage of the legislation "as an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear" and is expected to sign the bill into law. House Republicans initially sought to pass a version of the bill that excluded specific protections [NYT report] for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims of domestic violence. The bill reauthorizes the VAWA for five years and allocates $660 million [WP report] each year to be spent on battered women's shelters, victims advocates, rape-prevention education and other programs. Speaker of the House John Boehner [official website] abandoned the "Hastert rule" [NBC news report], which provides that a bill will only be brought to the House floor for a vote if it has the support of the majority of the majority party, for only the fourth time since becoming Speaker in order to get the bill passed.

Since its expiration in 2011, the reauthorization of the VAWA has been controversial. Last week the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women Rashida Manjoo [official profile] urged [UN press release; JURIST report] the US Congress to renew the VAWA. In 2011 Manjoo issued a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] which found a continued prevalence of violence against women and discriminatory treatment of women in the US, with a heightened impact on poor, minority and immigrant women. Last year the Republican-led House and the Democratic-controlled Senate both passed versions of the VAWA reauthorization but were unable to reach a compromise [AP report] over the prosecutorial power of tribal courts.

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