I’m writing in Al Jazeera today about how the fight over the Violence Against Women Act exemplifies the increased extremism of the Republican party. A bit:
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), passed in the House on February 28, has gone to President Obama to be signed into law. It is an important bill that provides a slew of necessary protections for the 1.5 million women who are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner every year, and this time around expanded to include protections for particularly vulnerable communities, including LGBT women, Native women and immigrants.
For 20 years, VAWA received broad bipartisan support. This year, every Democrat in the House and Senate voted for the bill. But almost half of Republican senators and a majority of House Republicans voted against it.
GOP opposition to the entirely sensible and previously bipartisan VAWA is only the latest example of how far rightward the party has moved. Republicans of all stripes should be concerned – this is why they’re losing elections, after all – and so should Americans generally. A far-right GOP may not get a lot done, but it does change the general political discourse, moving the centrist position to a more conservative one and doing very real harm to women and disempowered groups of Americans.
It is worth highlighting the groups that so many Republicans didn’t want VAWA to protect. Domestic violence occurs in same-sex relationships at roughly the same rates as it occurs in opposite-sex ones. Since so many same-sex couples lack legal recognition, there are far fewer resources for lesbian and gay victims of intimate violence, and law enforcement officers are less adept at identifying and dealing with violence in same-sex relationships.
Transgender women who experience violence often find themselves dealing with insensitive or even abusive law enforcement, having to live through the extra trauma of being misgendered or mocked by the authorities who are supposed to help them, and even barred from taking refuge in women-only domestic violence shelters.
Undocumented immigrants logically fear interfacing with police officers, and often avoid reporting violence or seeking help for fear of deportation. Native women suffer violence at a rate 3 1/2 times the national average, with almost 40 percent experiencing intimate partner violence at least once and 1 in 3 Native women raped in her lifetime. If the perpetrator of the crime is non-Native, tribal authorities have limited power.
VAWA closes some of these gaps, most notably with law enforcement on Native lands. But what’s going on with a Republican party that essentially says, “Ok, we’ll protect some women, but not the gay, transgender, immigrant or Native ones”?
The whole thing, which also gets into the pro-life movement, is here.