Congress still hasn’t renewed the Violence Against Women Act. More specifically, the House of Representatives is still refusing to pass the newest version of the bill which has already passed the Senate.
The Tea Party House originally opposed the latest version of the bill because it granted existing protection to members of the LGBT community, immigrants, and Native American tribes. But the hold-up at this point in negotiations is the latter, not the former.
Eric Cantor is reportedly personally overseeing the final stages of passing the bill and it is he who has a problem with granting existing protections and additional rights to Native Americans.
[T]wo sources familiar with negotiations on VAWA, both of whom requested anonymity given the sensitive nature of talks, have told HuffPost that Cantor is refusing to accept any added protections for Native American women that would give expanded jurisdiction to tribes, and is pressuring Democrats to concede on that front. There does seem to be room to negotiate with Cantor on the other two provisions relating to LGBT and undocumented immigrant protections, the sources say. [...]
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the author of the Senate VAWA bill, went to the Senate floor on Thursday and plainly announced that House Republican leaders are blocking his bill “because of their objections to [the] … tribal provision.”
Leahy explained the provision, probably the least understood of the three additions in the Senate bill: It gives tribal courts limited jurisdiction to oversee domestic violence offenses committed against Native American women by non-Native American men on tribal lands. Currently, federal and state law enforcement have jurisdiction over domestic violence on tribal lands, but in many cases, they are hours away and lack the resources to respond to those cases. Tribal courts, meanwhile, are on site and familiar with tribal laws, but lack the jurisdiction to address domestic violence on tribal lands when it is carried out by a non-Native American individual.
Why do Native American tribes need this provision? Because of this.
In some rural villages, rapes are 12 times more common than the national rate, and for Native American women, generally sexual assault is more than twice as common as the national average, according to The New York Times. The Alaska Federation of Natives cites a 2010 report by the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center, finding that while only 15.2 percent of Alaskans are Native American, they are the victims of 50 percent of the domestic violence and 61 percent of the sexual assaults committed in the state.
The vast majority of these crimes go unpunished. Local police, expected to prevent rapes and to respond quickly to reports of rapes, sometimes don’t respond at all. Hospitals lack the rape kits and cameras that would allow the collection of biological and photographic evidence to be used at trial. Most Native American rape victims don’t bother to take the nearly futile step of reporting rapes in the first place.
The men who commit these crimes are often not Native American themselves. Indian Country reports that “non-Indians commit 88%” of rapes and domestic violence against Native American women, but they are beyond the reach of local justice: “antiquated jurisdictional laws” prevent tribal justice systems “from prosecuting non-Native criminals.”
A decent human being would clear the way to pass the additional provision without delay, but Eric Cantor has decided that “epidemic levels” of rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence against Native American women is political.