Amnesty International Condemns “Shameful” Effort to Strip New Protections for Native Women from Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Press Release
April 20, 2012

Amnesty International Condemns “Shameful” Effort to Strip New Protections for Native Women from Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@aiusa.org

(Washington) – Amnesty International USA today condemned as “disturbing and shameful” the effort underway in the U.S. Senate to strip protections for Native American and Alaska Native women from legislation to help fight domestic violence and sexual assault.

Suzanne Nossel, executive director, Amnesty International USA, said: “It’s quite disturbing to think that some senators want to eliminate protections for Native women. Surely the Senate will reject this idea that only some women deserve protection from violence. It’s shameful. All women must be protected. Lives are at stake.”

Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is crucial especially this year, Amnesty International contends, because it incorporates key new protections for Native women found in the SAVE Native Women Act, such as clarifying tribal civil jurisdiction to issue and enforce protection orders. Amnesty International has long supported the VAWA.

Amnesty International’s groundbreaking 2007 “Maze of Injustice” report found enormous challenges when it comes to safety and justice for Native women who are victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence. The protections in the SAVE Native Women Act help address these obstacles to protecting women and prosecuting abusers.

“This Act is crucial to reverse the legacy of violence against Native women, which is at epidemic levels today,” said Nossel.

Native American and Alaska Native women in the United States face domestic and sexual violence at drastically higher levels than other women. The “Maze of Injustice” report revealed that 1 in 3 Native women will be raped during their lives and 2 in 5 women in Native communities will suffer domestic violence. Even more shocking, four out of five perpetrators are non-Indian, and currently cannot be prosecuted by tribal governments. The new provisions in VAWA will change that situation.

“These statistics are evidence of a broken system where survivors find themselves in a maze of protocols and convoluted jurisdictions that often deny justice to survivors,” said Sarah Deer, a Native women’s advocate and member of Amnesty USA’s Native American and Alaska Native Advisory Council. “The SAVE Native Women Act brings hope that we can change the situation to protect women.”

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Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.