The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed in 1994. It was reauthorized in 2000 and again in 2005. But the Act expired in 2011, and it's still unclear whether it will be reauthorized.
The purpose of the Act is to end violence against women and remedy laws and practices that have justified violence against women in the past. To meet those goals, the Act focuses on a variety of tactics like improving social services and updating legislation.
Congress has been debating the reauthorization of the Act for about a year. But the Senate and House of Representatives can't agree on what it should include.
When the law expired, the Senate proposed that the reauthorization include some amendments to extend the protections of the Act. That's where the trouble started.
The strongest objections are to provisions that would give VAWA protections to illegal immigrants, gay and lesbian individuals, and American Indians. Many Conservative members of the House are critical of those measures.
Critics of the Act say the Senate is being unfair by adding these provisions, reports U.S. News. They claim it's a ploy to make conservatives look bad for opposing a popular Act by including contraversial measures.
The opposition isn't to the ideals of the law. Few, if any, politicians argue that violence against women is a good idea.
But many members of the House argue that the amendments are an overextension of the government's power, reports U.S. News. Others question the efficacy of VAWA as a whole. They argue that the Act didn't curb violence against women, and perhaps may even have increased it.
But statistics don't necessarily support that position.
Since the introduction of VAWA, the rate of intimate partner violence and homicide has decreased significantly, according to a fact sheet put out by the government.
That hasn't stopped the battle of wills going on in Congress. While the Senate has approved reauthorization, the House failed to do so. The debate over VAWA's renewal continues.
- Violence Against Women Act (The American Bar Association)
- Violence Against Women Act: Visas for Battered Spouses (FindLaw)
- Topeka, Kansas to Legalize Domestic Violence? (FindLaw's Blotter)