An amendment which would have severely restricted protections for Native American women under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was defeated yesterday evening.

The amendment, proposed by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), would have removed a new provision of VAWA that would allow Native American tribal courts to try non-Native Americans for cases of violence against women that occur on tribal lands against members of the reservation. The amendment was defeated in a 59 to 31 vote.

Senator Coburn proposed the amendment and argued that the new provisions would eliminate the constitutional rights of non-Native Americans if they go before a tribal court. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) explained that Native American women experience abuse at a rate of two and a half times the national average, and argued that the new provisions extend constitutional rights to tribal courts. “This is about the life and death of women who need a better system to help prosecute those who are committing serious crimes against them,” she said.

In late January, Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reintroduced a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The bipartisan-supported Senate VAWA includes expanded protections for Native American women, LGBTQ individuals, students, and immigrant women. Last week, an amendment thatwould have removed the expanded protections was defeated in a 65 to 34 vote.

Media Resources: Associated Press 2/12/2013; Senate Roll Call Vote on Coburn Amdt No. 13 2/11/2013; Feminist 2/8/2013; 1/23/2013

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