United States: Tribes May Prosecute Non-Members for Violence against Women

Under new federal laws that entered into force in March, Native American tribes in all U.S. states except Alaska may investigate and prosecute certain non-members who perpetrate violence against women on tribal lands. The new authority, included in a 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, will require tribes to meet certain conditions that protect defendants’ rights before they can prosecute non-members in tribal courts. Three tribes agreed to implement these conditions early, as part of a pilot project launched by the U.S. Department of Justice in February 2014 to test the new tribal authority.

Previously, tribes had little authority to protect women from violence committed by non-members. Tribes could not arrest or prosecute non-member perpetrators, or enforce protective orders against non-members who abused native women, even if the non-member lived or worked on tribal land or was in a relationship with a native woman. This resulted in widespread impunity for violence against Native American women given the limited ability of state and federal law enforcement to respond to violence committed on isolated tribal lands by non-members. 


Compiled from: Bendery, Jennifer,  At Last, Violence Against Women Act Lets Tribes Prosecute Non-Native Domestic Abusers, Huffington Post (March 6, 2015).