Lise Balk King in Huffington Post. Discussion »
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS To fix a systematic human rights abuse, it usually takes a government commitment of troops or treasure. It's a big decision to invoke the powers of Congress to cross jurisdictions of nation states, but we do this on occasion to intervene on behalf of vulnerable populations across the globe. We consider it our responsibility as the international standard-bearers of human rights.
We appear, at times, to be hopelessly myopic when it comes to getting things done here at home.
In the case of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the bill that seeks to protect victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, the fix will take only the stroke of a pen. There is no diplomatic negotiation needed, no political capital to be played, no long-term reputational cost to be considered. And yet, our House of Representatives just can't seem to get it done.
By not reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act with inclusion of protections for victims of assaults committed on Native American reservations, members of the House are saying non-Indians who commit crimes enjoy impunity and the victims are denied one of the most basic human rights that of bodily integrity the security of one's person.
The current version of VAWA includes new provisions for immigrants, members of the LBGT community, and Indian country. The Senate has passed the bill. The House has approved a version that does not include the provision for Native American women.
GOP Congressional House leaders, particularly Eric Cantor (R-VA), oppose this portion of the Violence Against Women Act, calling it "unconstitutional." What is really behind this refusal is unclear.
The provision for Native Americans provides a crucial jurisdictional fix for a loophole in the criminal justice system. If you are a Native American woman assaulted on Indian land, the tragic odds are that you will not be offered protection by the law.
According to the US Department of Justice, 88 percent of domestic assaults on Indian land are committed by non-Indians. The only authority Read More »
Lise Balk King is a Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she is currently specializing in the dynamic crossroads of media, human rights and public policy. She is also the founder of the Carr Center's Initiative on Indigenous Rights, and is in production on a documentary film on the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Lise has two children, ages 11 and 19, who are enrolled members of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. She was previously co-publisher and executive editor of The Native Voice newspaper.
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posted December 19, 2012 11:30 am est