At the beginning of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives let the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) expire without reauthorization.
The last time this happened was… never. This is the first time VAWA has not been reauthorized since the act first became law in 1994. The conservative War on Women has set a new precedent of sacrificing women’s live and safety for party politics.
The biggest attack came from House conservatives who did not approve of the version of the reauthorization approved by the Senate. The Senate had approved VAWA’s reauthorization with bipartisan support for new changes to the act that would extend protections to women who had slipped through the cracks before. Women on Native American reservations could not always take action against non-Native partners as a result of the sovereign status of their tribes. Undocumented women were often too afraid of deportation if they sought assistance and had their immigration status challenged. Lesbian and trans women were often excluded from protections against intimate partner violence because of a lack of understanding and resources for queer relationships. All of these gaps were addressed in the Senate’s reauthorization, and used as kindling to ignite outrage from conservative and right wing members of the House.
Apparently, stopping violence against mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, friends, aunts, girlfriends, significant others, coworkers, fellow members of Congress sitting next to you, and half of the population is so controversial that it doesn’t even warrant a vote. That’s right y’all – VAWA died on the table in the House without even being put to a vote. The only thing the House did manage to accomplish was trying to pass its own version of the reauthorization bill that would restrict protections granted to women under VAWA.
The failure to reauthorize VAWA is inexcusable. Our lives are not the play things of politicians who are trying win a game of King of the (Capital) Hill. As a new session of Congress begins and newly elected Senators and Representatives are sworn in, feminists must hold our policymakers accountable. With massive gender gaps at the polls, women cannot be ignored or discarded as a special interest. The 113th Congress will have to face (more than) half the population as a force to be reckoned with.