As the 25th Anniversary of VAWA is marked this year, Congress remains committed to fighting domestic violence. Yet that doesn't mean the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) passed on the House floor recently deserves support.
In fact, those committed to preventing violence against women should be fighting for the best possible version of VAWA. But it takes political guts to do so. VAWA has been so politicized that anyone who raises concerns with any aspect of it is immediately branded as “anti-woman.” Who wants to cast a vote against the law protecting women from violence? Certainly not white, middle-aged men constantly accused of being out of touch with women. A female politician questioning VAWA is immediately attacked as a traitor to women. VAWA today is a political weapon.
VAWA isn't just being used as a political weapon in the public relations game. This latest reauthorization of VAWA shows the law has strayed far from its original purpose in order to advance a different political agenda. The 1994 version was a criminal justice bill focused on how law enforcement and the court system responded to domestic violence. It focused on protecting women, because women were overwhelmingly the victims in these cases.
Unfortunately, this latest reauthorization of VAWA flatly refuses to help victims of female genital mutilation (FGM). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates over half a million women and girls are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the United States.
FGM is the total or partial removal of the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons, as defined by the World Health Organization. It has absolutely no health benefits and is internationally recognized as a violation of fundamental human rights. Clearly, this qualifies as violence against women, but the “new” VAWA ignores this growing threat.
Obviously, VAWA should address FGM. Funding should be made available through VAWA for those organizations doing the important work of fighting this horrific practice. The House chose to ignore this threat to women and did not include it in VAWA. So, what happened?
Politics. The basic goal of assisting victims of domestic violence through the criminal justice community has been lost in the rush to advance an unrelated progressive political agenda. There are too many politicians who don’t want to acknowledge the heinous practice of FGM. Our young women and girls need protection from this horrific act. They deserve better than hesitant politicians afraid to see the threats in front of them. The Violence Against Women Act has to be better than what it is today.
Click HERE to sign IWF’s petition today to demand that Congress pass a stronger VAWA that includes greater transparency and protects women from Female Genital Mutilation.