“Congress should act promptly to pass key reforms to the Violence Against Women Act that bolster indigenous tribes’ ability to prosecute cases involving violence against indigenous women,” said Rashida Manjoo and James Anayaemphasized in a joint statement issued in Geneva.
“We would like to reiterate the importance of reauthorizing VAWA in order to build upon its accomplishments and continue striving for more adequate responses from the authorities in providing protection to victims and ensuring accountability for perpetrators,” they said.
The two serve the UN as United Nations Special Rapporteurs on violence against women and the rights of indigenous peoples.
They said the "new bill includes improvements with regard to the criminal justice system’s response to crimes including sexual assault and homicides resulting from domestic violence. It also foresees enhanced protections for Native American and Alaskan Native women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims, as well as immigrant victims and their children."
The law was first passed in 1994 under the leadership of Vice President Joe Biden, who - at the time - was a U.S. senator.
The law has succeeded in "holding rapists accountable for their crimes by strengthening federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and creating a federal 'rape shield law,' which is intended to prevent offenders from using victims’ past sexual conduct against them during a rape trial," according to a White House briefing.
The Senate has extended the law, but the U.S. House of Reprsentatives has not voted on it. Some conservatives are wary of provisions expanding the bill to same-sex couples and, possibly, the jurisdiction of tribal courts.