United States: Violence Against Women Act and Trafficking Victims Protection Act Reauthorized
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 5:20 PM

Today, the House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), including important provisions providing protection for Native American women, LGBTQ individuals, immigrants and trafficking victims. 

Native American Victims—VAWA now grants limited jurisdiction to tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians who commit certain domestic or sexual crimes. Tribal courts had jurisdiction to apprehend and prosecute criminals, regardless of race, up until 1978, when the Supreme Court ruled that such jurisdiction was not inherent, but rather must be Congressionally conferred.  Accordingly, through bipartisan support, Congress has acted to grant tribal courts the necessary jurisdiction to ensure that all victims of domestic and sexual violence can seek legal protection.
LGBTQ—VAWA now includes language clarifying that protection will be offered to victims regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, thus ensuring that LGBTQ individuals be allowed access to the same protections and resources as anyone else. 
Immigrants - VAWA retains stalking among the list of crimes covered by the U visa - a critical law enforcement tool that encourages immigrant victims to assist with the investigation and prosecution of certain crimes.
Human Trafficking—The vote also included reauthorization of a separate law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), which provides protection and vital resources to victims, as well as strengthens the nation’s efforts to end human trafficking.  It is estimated that there are currently 27 million victims of human trafficking, and the TVPRA, which had expired in 2011, is the United States’ primary legislation addressing this violation of human rights. 

It is expected that President Obama will quickly sign this bill into law, officially reinstating two important pieces of legislation aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.
Compiled from Ashley Parker, "Domestic Violence Law Clears House, In Victory for Obama," New York Times (28 February 2013); Louise Erdrich, “Rape On the Reservation,” New York Times (27 February 2013).