After a tumultuous journey through Congress, the re-authorized Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama this afternoon. Originally passed in 1994, VAWA helps fund programs aimed at preventing and prosecuting sex crimes against women and intimate partner violence.
The original law “made it possible for us to talk about domestic abuse,” Obama said Thursday at the signing. The updated version aids women whose immigration status may be tied to an abusive spouse and expands housing assistance “so that no woman has to choose between a violent home and no home at all.”
It also expands protections and support for women living on Native American reservations, the LGBT community and victims of human trafficking.
For a while, it looked like VAWA might not be reauthorized this year, due to differences of political opinion on some of these provisions. The most controversial was the measure granting Native American tribal courts the jurisdiction to prosecute non-native offenders charged with domestic or sexual violence.
Previously, tribes had no jurisdiction over non-tribal members, even if they are married to native women or live on tribal lands, according to CBS News.
“As soon as I sign this bill, that ends,” Obama said Thursday.
The updated VAWA also includes:
- Authorization for LGBT groups to apply for grants to prevent sexual violence and support sexual violence victims;
- The SAFER Act, which aims to pare down the backlog of DNA tests (aka rape kits) in police storage in the U.S.; and
- The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which funds services for victims of human trafficking.
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