Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Shame on the House for passing H.R. 4970!

The action of the House of Representative in passing H.R. 4970, a bill that undermines the core principles of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), is an assault on victims of domestic violence.  H.R. 4970 rolls back existing law and removes long-standing protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault -- crimes that predominately affect women.

Supporters of the bill, led by Concerned Women for America, wrote:

“We, the undersigned, representing millions of Americans nationwide, are writing today to oppose the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This nice-sounding bill is deceitful because it destroys the family by obscuring real violence in order to promote the feminist agenda. […]  There is no denying the very real problem of violence against women and children. However, the programs promoted in VAWA are harmful for families. VAWA often encourages the demise of the family as a means to eliminate violence.  Further, this legislation continues to use overly broad definitions of domestic violence. These broad definitions actually squander the resources for victims of actual violence by failing to properly prioritize and assess victims. Victims who can show physical evidence of abuse should be our primary focus.”

The Concerned Women for America is a misnomer for the organization as its mission is: “to protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens - first through prayer, then education, and finally by influencing our society - thereby reversing the decline in moral values in our nation.”  It goes on to state that they are the nation's largest public policy women's organization with a rich 32-year history of helping our members across the country bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy.”  Their six core values are Family – believing that marriage consists of one man and one woman, Sanctity of Human Life – namely anti freedom of reproduction, Education – supporting reform of public education by returning authority to parents, Pornography, Religious Liberty - supporting the God-given rights of individuals in the United States and other nations to pray, worship and express their beliefs without fear of discrimination or persecution, National Sovereignty -  believing that neither the United Nations nor any other international organization should have authority over the United States in any area. We also believe the United States has the right and duty to protect and secure our national borders.

Nowhere, does this organization support any women's issues, and to claim that VAWA obscures the real violence to promote the feminist agenda is nothing more than misogyny disguised under the label of “Concerned Women.”  As Andrea Dworkin noted “Feminism is hated because women are hated. Anti-feminism is a direct expression of misogyny; it is the political defense of women hating.”

Another supporter of the bill is Natasha Spivack, who started international "marriage service" Encounters International in 1993 with the aim of arranging marriages between U.S. men and Russian women.  The company’s website states: "The Woman Of Your Dreams Just May have a Russian Accent."

The Senate recently passed a bipartisan VAWA bill that would extend protections to undocumented immigrant, Native American, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender victims of domestic violence. Rather than follow the Senate's lead, the House GOP leadership has focused on a pared-down version that does not extend protections to those groups and actually rolls back existing protections for immigrants who have been abused.

The House’s version of VAWA does not include important improvements to the Clery Act found in the Senate-passed bill that would address the high rates of dating violence and sexual assault in schools and it weakens critical new provisions in the Senate-passed bill that would improve safety for victims living in subsidized housing.

House Republicans who support their leadership's bill argue that LGBT victims are already covered under U.S. domestic violence programs and that rolling back those protections for immigrant victims will crack down on fraud.

As an attorney who has on numerous occasions represented women (and men) who have been victims of domestic violence, I can tell you the reality of what victims have to endure does not even compare to the de minimus argument of any possible fraud. The bill is an attempt to dismiss the advances made in serving immigrant survivors of domestic violence. Lives have been saved because of just provisions designed to increase the personal safety of the abused and their children.

The bipartisan VAWA of 1994 recognized the human rights of those most vulnerable; the undocumented, many of whom are preyed upon because of their status. HR 4970 strips immigrant victims of domestic violence from the right to confidentiality and it undermines current immigration fraud protections. 

Now what does H.R. 4970 do in favor of its supporters?  It eliminates a provision to close a dangerous gap by penalizing US clients of international marriage broker agencies who intentionally lie about required disclosures of their criminal history information in order to lure women.  It also removes a provision to alert foreign fiancĂ©(e)s and spouses of their US citizen petitioners have a protection order taken out against them.  Both of these provisions advance extremist right wing agenda that ensures the continued slavery of women and even children under the auspices of the protection of family, the sanctity of life, religious freedom and national sovereignty.

It is shocking to see this type of legislation even proposed in the post-civil rights era and when international human rights have been globally recognized and advanced.  Shame on the House!

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