After introducing their own version of the Violence Against Women Act, which excluded express provisions to include lesbian, bisexual, transgender and transsexual women, it was reported Tuesday that Republicans in the House of Representatives are now poised to pass the all-inclusive bipartisan version of the VAWA that has been approved by the United States Senate. The Senate VAWA also enables Native American tribes to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence on reservations, as well as including express protections to undocumented immigrants and survivors of domestic violence on university campuses.
In April, 2012, the Senate modified the Violence Against Women Act to extend services and benefits given to survivors of domestic violence to include undocumented, Native American, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and transsexual women. Such provisions and language were not written as part of the original law enacted by Congress in 1994, but were added with bipartisan support in the Senate after lawmakers spoke with law enforcement officials, advocacy groups and survivors of domestic violence. House Republicans then rejected the modified bill as “politically driven,” allowing the law to expire for the first time in its history.
Earlier this year, the Senate once again passed the all-inclusive version of the Violence Against Women Act. House Republicans also rewrote their own version, stripping it of all language to include provisions on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and immigration status. The House version also limits the ability for Native American tribes to prosecute non-Native offenders living on reservations, which some considered to be a violation of constitutional rights. Although both versions will be put to a vote, Republican leaders within the House have indicated they will allow their variation of the bill to die and allow the Senate VAWA to pass with their support. Democrats such as Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash, are cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the vote scheduled for tomorrow.
We are on the cusp of a huge victory for every single woman who has been told over the past 16 months that they didn’t deserve VAWA protections… I applaud those moderate Republicans in the House who are ready to put politics aside and help us get this over the finish line. I know that the broad coalition of women and advocates who I’ve worked with over the course of this long effort have their fingers crossed and will be watching closely.
Domestic violence committed against transgender and transsexual women often goes unreported due to fear of discrimination on the basis of gender identity by law enforcement and the judicial system. The Transgender Law Center has documented personal stories where law enforcement did nothing to prevent or prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence due to the fact that the victims were transgender. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence indicates that in relationship where one or both partners are trans, abuse can range from physical and sexual assault to verbal abuse and ridicule, such as mocking a trans woman’s identity, anatomy or otherwise dehumanizing language. In an abusive relationship, trans women may even be denied proper medical care such as hormone replacement therapy or be prevented from pursuing gender reassignment. In addition to institutionalized discrimination, cases of domestic violence against transgender and transsexual women may go unreported due to fear of further abuse or retaliation by their partners, especially in situations where trans women are financially dependent on their abusers. If passed by the House of Representatives, the transgender inclusive Violence Against Women Act could be signed into law by President Obama by the end of the week.