by Sarah Childress
February 4, 2013
A Senate proposal to allow tribal courts to try non-Native abusers on reservations is one of three controversial changes that for more than a year have stalled the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a popular bipartisan bill since its first passage in 1994.
Additional proposals would have ban discrimination against LGBT people by domestic violence programs that receive federal dollars, and issue a backlog of unused visas for undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence.
Last year, House Republicans objected to the additions and killed the Senate bill. Now it’s back on the agenda. Gay rights and immigration have sparked controversy in Congress before. But how did violence against Native American women suddenly become a third rail?
Nearly one in three Native American women have been raped in their lifetime, a much higher rate than the national average, which is about one in five, according to a 2010 study (pdf) by the Centers for Disease Control.
About 46 percent of Native American women have suffered rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner, a much higher percentage than women of other races, according to the study.
The House Republicans’ main objection to that provision wasn’t about the victims, but over a question about how tribal courts might treat the alleged abusers.