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USA: UN rights experts call on Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act

GENEVA (19 February 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteurs on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, and on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, urged the United States Government to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Their call follows the recent approval by the US Senate of a bipartisan bill to reauthorize and strengthen VAWA.

“Since its enactment in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has played a crucial role in providing guidance to state and local level governments, and in facilitating their adequate responses to violence against women,” Ms. Manjoo said. “It has steadily expanded funding to address domestic violence and, with each reauthorization, it has included historically underserved groups.”

The new bill includes improvements with regard to the criminal justice system’s response to crimes including sexual assault and homicides resulting from domestic violence. It also foresees enhanced protections for Native American and Alaskan Native women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims, as well as immigrant victims and their children.

“Following my visit to the United States in 2011, I highlighted the positive legislative and policy measures undertaken by the US Government to fight violence against women, including the enactment and subsequent reauthorizations of the Violence Against Women Act, and the establishment of a dedicated office on violence against women at the highest level of the Executive,” the expert on violence against women said.

Likewise, Special Rapporteur Anaya expressed concern in his report following his visit to the United States in 2012 that numerous cases of violence against indigenous women are committed by non-indigenous individuals, many of whom are not subject to indigenous prosecutorial authority because of their non-indigenous status.

“Congress should act promptly to pass key reforms to the Violence Against Women Act that bolster indigenous tribes’ ability to prosecute cases involving violence against indigenous women,” emphasized the expert on the rights of indigenous peoples.

“We would like to reiterate the importance of reauthorizing VAWA in order to build upon its accomplishments and continue striving for more adequate responses from the authorities in providing protection to victims and ensuring accountability for perpetrators,” the UN Special Rapporteurs stressed.

Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Manjoo also holds a part-time position as a Professor in the Department of Public Law of the University of Cape Town. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/SRWomen/Pages/SRWomenIndex.aspx

Check Ms. Manjoo’s 2011 report – Visit to the USA: http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=A/HRC/17/26/Add.5&Lang=E

The UN Human Rights Council appointed S. James Anaya as Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples in March 2008. Mr. Anaya is a Regents Professor and the James J. Lenoir Professor of Human Rights Law and Policy at the University of Arizona (United States). As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/indigenous/rapporteur/

Check Mr. Anaya’s 2012 report – Visit to the USA: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session21/Pages/ListReports.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – United States: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/USIndex.aspx

For further information and media inquiries please contact Gabriela Guzmán (+41 22 9179412 / gguzman@ohchr.org) or write to vaw@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en