It seems fitting that today, International Women’s Day, is the day after President Barack Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act into law.
The reauthorized version of VAWA features inclusive language that will play a crucial role in protecting the right of all victims to be free from domestic violence. These provisions are especially important for Native Americans and women of color, who experience the highest rates of domestic violence and sexual assault. The law also addresses sexual assault and stalking on college campuses, as well as provisions to help immigrant victims and prevent sex trafficking. For the first time, these protections were extended to address all instances of intimate partner violence, including for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Advocates have been pushing for these expansions since the last version of the law expired in 2011. In 2012, Congress failed to pass an inclusive reauthorization before the end of the 112th session.
“After last year’s Senate reauthorization, Republicans in the House hid behind legislative maneuvering to stop VAWA in its tracks and American women paid the price,” said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, urging the House to take up the bill after the Senate voted 78-22 to pass VAWA this year. “Instead of passing a bill that included important advancements to protect women who are most at risk, they obfuscated the facts and politicized the needs of students, immigrant women, LGBT people, and women on tribal lands to justify their obstruction.”
The House voted 286-138 to pass a bipartisan, inclusive reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday, February 28, exactly two weeks after countless activists demonstrated their support for the bill as part of One Billion Rising. One Billion Rising is a global movement working to raise awareness in order to end sexual assault and other forms of violence or abuse. Washington, D.C. was one of hundreds of cities around the United States which played host to a One Billion Rising event on February 14, 2013. Watch the video below by Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern Monica We and Americans for Financial Reform Intern Justin Kenney created to capture the energy, excitement, and determination that permeated the demonstration:
“While we celebrate today’s victory, we must begin immediately on the hard work of ensuring that VAWA’s authorized programs are fully funded,” said National Organization for Women (NOW) President Terry O’Neill in a statement. “NOW calls on Congress to appropriate every last dollar authorized in this bill. Women’s lives are on the line. How could we settle for anything less?”