USA: New Legislation to Help Prosecute Sexual Assault Perpetrators on American Indian Reservations
Monday, August 2, 2010 3:20 PM

On July 29, 2010, a new law, the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, took effect in the USA, which will change how felony crimes are investigated and prosecuted on American Indian reservations. The new law is expected to aid in the fight against impunity for violence against Indian women. To date, tribal courts could only impose sentences of up to one year for felony crimes, which includes sexual assault. And, a 2007 Denver Post investigation found that only one third of all felony cases on reservations were prosecuted by the federal government. The lack of accountability and prosecution is especially disturbing, since more than 1 in 3 Indian women will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime, according to a 2008 Center for Disease Control and Prevention Report.  


The new legislation grants more authority to tribal governments to work with the federal government to ensure that felony crimes are prosecuted. Specifically, tribal courts can now impose three year sentences on criminals, tribal authorities will have access to the federal criminal database, and tribal courts will have access to testimony and evidence from Indian Health Service doctors and other sexual assault cases. The law also created a panel to study justice and policing issues on reservations that will report back to Congress.  In addition, the federal government is now required to report the number of cases it declines, and records of the tribal proceedings will now be documented.


This new legislation is an important step in prosecuting perpetrators, protecting future victims, and fighting impunity of violence against women, particularly Indian women.


Compiled from:  President Obama signs tribal-justice changes, The Denver Post, (30 July 2010).