America, Land of the Free… Or at least that’s what it was meant to be. But is it?
When developing nations are expected to look up to “democracy” in the United States, and when many of them are fighting to pass legislation to protect women and minorities, Republicans in the U.S. Congress have done it again. For the first time since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been scrapped!
Republicans claim the bill -- co-written by a liberal Democrat (Vermont's Pat Leahy) and a conservative Republican (Idaho's Mike Crapo) -- is too supportive of immigrants, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community and Native Americans.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the Democratic point person on VAWA, said in a statement: "The House Republican leadership's failure to take up and pass the Senate's bipartisan and inclusive VAWA bill is inexcusable. This is a bill that passed with 68 votes in the Senate and that extends the bill's protections to 30 million more women. But this seems to be how House Republican leadership operates. No matter how broad the bipartisan support, no matter who gets hurt in the process, the politics of the rightwing of their party always comes first."
Back in August, President Barack Obama had to go on TV and denounce Rep. Todd Akin’s remarks about rape as “offensive.’
“Rape is rape,” Obama told a White House press briefing on August 20. He called the comments by Akin, a Republican candidate for Senate in Missouri, “way out there.”
Akin said in cases of “legitimate rape,” pregnancy is rare because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Although Akin lost his seat, he hung in there, offering a controversial explanation for why he is against abortion. He said he believed pregnancy from rape was rare because of biological reactions to "legitimate rape."
"It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," he said. If pregnancy did occur, he added, there should be repercussions for the rapist, but not the unborn fetus. "Let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment. But the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."
|Photo via lcadv.org|
Adding insult to injury, Akin’s congressional peers have now derailed VAWA!
It will be up to the 113th Congress to revive the law, but that will take time and thousands of rape victims will be vulnerable because of the GOP’s actions.
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a U.S. federal law (Title IV, sec. 40001-40703 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, H.R. 3355) signed as Pub.L.103-322 by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994.
The Act provided $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave unprosecuted.
The Act also established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice.
The office of Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) drafted VAWA, with support from a broad coalition of advocacy groups. The Act passed through Congress with bipartisan support in 1994, clearing the House by a 235-195 vote and the Senate by a 61-38 ballot, although the following year House Republicans tried to cut the Act's funding.
Congress reauthorized VAWA in 2000, and again in December 2005. The Act's 2012 renewal was fiercely opposed by conservative Republicans, who objected to extending the Act's protections to same-sex couples and to provisions allowing battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas.
In April 2012, the Senate voted to reauthorize VAWA, and the House subsequently passed its own measure (omitting provisions of the Senate bill that would protect gay men, lesbians, American Indians living in reservations, and illegal immigrants who were victims of domestic violence).
On January 2, 2013, the Senate's 2012 reauthorization of VAWA was not brought up for a vote in the House -- effectively ending the Bill after 18 years in effect.
Since its original passage in 1994, VAWA's focus has expanded from domestic violence and sexual assault to also include dating violence and stalking.
It funds services to protect adult and teen victims of these crimes, and supports training on these issues, to ensure consistent responses across the country.
One of the greatest successes of VAWA is its emphasis on a coordinated community response to domestic violence, sex dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Courts, law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services, and the private bar currently work together in a coordinated effort that had not heretofore existed on the state and local levels.
VAWA also supports the work of community-based organizations that are engaged in work to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, particularly those groups that provide culturally and linguistically specific services.
Additionally, VAWA provides specific support for work with tribes and tribal organizations to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking against Indian women.
The GOP has put all this is in limbo for now.
In the meantime, will rape victims be defended and supported by hacktivist groups and the online community, as is happening in the Ohio town of Steubenville?
Online hacktivist group Anonymous (@KYAnonymous on Twitter) has been holding rallies in Steubenville to protest what it called a conspiracy by some town members to protect local football stars accused of raping a 16-year-old girl last August.
Related posts and articles:
- House GOP blocks Violence Against Women Act – The Maddow Blog
- House Republicans Derail Bill Targeting Rapists – Mother Jones
- Call for zero rape tolerance in 2013 -- January 3, 2013
- I agree with Obama: Rape is rape -- Aug 21, 2012
- It takes balls, but out the rapists! -- August 2, 2012