The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has proven to be an efficient way to finance a network of services that reduce domestic violence. However, despite the law’s positive impact, and the need for it, its reauthorization faces ideological obstacles.
The good news is that the Senate already has a bipartisan bill on the verge of passage next week, although the price for this agreement was to sacrifice the expansion of the number of visas to be granted to victims of domestic violence. But we must not forget that in the near future, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), this proposal will reappear in an immigration reform bill.
This is the only change made to the bill that was blocked in the last legislative session by Republican opposition to expanding the scope of the law to include gays, lesbians, immigrants and Native Americans.
The amendment helped some Republicans support the measure, but did not keep a handful of Tea Party-supported senators, including Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, from opposing even debating the reauthorization of the bill, which expired in 2010.
This ultra-conservative rejection will certainly be more widespread in the House of Representatives. There, VAWA critics go from questioning its effectiveness to denouncing it as promoting a feminist and homosexual agenda that demonizes men. This is yet another of the ideological barriers that seem to be commonplace in the House.
Practically the only hope for reauthorization in Congress lies with Republican post-electoral introspection. That they recognize the real need to win women’s votes, as they have with the Latin vote. VAWA is an ideal initiative for this purpose, as is immigration reform for Hispanics.
For 15 years, VAWA helped reduce domestic violence by 67%, and its emergency hotline took three million calls from victims of such violence. For now, as a first step, it is urgent for the Senate to reauthorize the law next week.