One would have thought the Republican party had learned a lesson from the Presidential election wherein they lost a good portion of some very important demographic groups like Hispanics, Asians, Women, etc. However, it appears that they remain oblivious not only to their lack of appeal to these groups but that they have no intention whatsoever in changing their message. Why do I say that? Because House Republicans killed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
We have had the VAWA act since 1994 and every so often it gets reauthorized, almost automatically, by Congress, because no one in their right mind wants to de-fund the laws that help female victims bring their attackers to justice nor decrease the excellent services and programs that help those women recover (and that helps to get sexual offenders, usually repeat offenders, off the street). Except this year, something was different. The Senate passed it per usual but the House rejected it because of a new addition to the bill. The addition to the bill expanded protections to Native Americans, Immigrants and to those in the LGBT community encompassing a population of about 30 million women.
I fully expected opposition from the crazy House Republican Caucus regarding the extension of legal protections to non-citizens such as Immigrants. Plus considering their loathing of anyone who is not heterosexual, and voila, it was custom made for a fifteen minute bitch fest on Fox News in prime time so the Tea Party darlings would get their base all riled up and in a lather. Then I fully expected them to slink back to the Hill and pass the damn thing–because it’s a good bill, drafted by both parties, and everyone, including them, know it. Hundreds of thousands of women will not receive the justice they deserve without this law. Passing it was the right thing to do. After a few weeks of resistance, they bowed to the inevitable and said ‘ok the immigrants and the gays can stay but not the indians’ (paraphrasing here).
According to Rep. Eric Cantor (R-GA) the final hang up that they just couldn’t overcome was the “tribal provisions”. Let me explain. You probably already know that Native Americans actually have reservations across the U.S. and those lands are considered sovereign nations. Meaning that they have their own government and they interact with the U.S. through that government. It also means that they enforce their own laws, run their own courts, etc separate from the U.S. Now the relationship between the U.S. and the sovereign Native American nations is not as cut and dried as it sounds. For instance, Native Americans are citizens of both their tribe and the U.S. This relationship can get complicated and it’s not always easy to determine when we are stepping on each others toes, so to speak. However, we’ve had this kind of blurry relationship with them since the 1800’s. Currently there are 566 federally recognized tribes in the U.S. and we’ve legislated many powers back and forth over that time period. So this is not a new issue. This is not something that Congress should be shocked to learn or have any reason to fear.
What VAWA had to do with this issue of sovereignty was to allow tribal courts to prosecute non-Tribal criminals that hurt Native American women. You know why? Because there was no one who could and would prosecute them. That’s right. For a very long time, too long a time, Native American women have been assaulted by non-Native American men and they were not punished in any way shape or form. Just how bad is it?
One in three reports being the victim of a rape or attempted rape and Native American women are also 10 times more likely to be murdered than other groups of women in the US. Most of the attacks are also reported to be perpetrated by a person of another race.
You know what really sucks, when I did a Google search for this info the first link that came up wasn’t a U.S. news agency….it was Al Jazeera. This has been going on under our noses for decades and we have been so incredibly blind to it. Now we can do something about it and it’s not a big deal. This addition to VAWA simply gives the tribes’ courts jurisdiction, the court apparatus on the scene so to speak, to prosecute such cases. The batshit crazy Republicans in the House* decided now was the time to get paranoid about sovereignty and see this as a means of weakening our national power. Apparently preserving the God given right of white men rape and pillage the natives is more important than protecting the women. It is simply disgusting.
I want all you women reading this and any men that actually give a shit about women to remember this in 2014 when we have another mid-term election for Congressional seats. Let this motivate you to get your butt off the couch and go vote because we can’t afford to let the likes of Eric Cantor or anyone who thinks that protecting women from domestic violence is a bad thing back into office. If you need something to help store it in long term memory, watch this video. You’ll never hear Three Little Indians again the same way.
* Thanks a lot Tea Party for voting these asswipes into office in 2010 they’re doing a bang up job, NOT