Opinion

Opinion: Native women deserve protection from violence too





"This week, Congress is poised to reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act, a bill that aims to protect women in cases of domestic violence, rape, and other forms of abuse. However, despite broad support from both political parties, the bill faces a challenge in the House of Representatives, where a new addition to the bill would allow Native American police and courts to arrest and prosecute non-American Indian defendants who are charged with committing crimes against women. It’s not a straightforward issue: conflicts between tribal and federal laws and jurisdiction have left many Native American women in a legal bind.

When it comes to statistics regarding native women in the United States and violence, the numbers are staggering: according to Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, one out of three American Indian women are assaulted, and three out of five experience domestic violence. If those statements seem shocking, they should be; for years, tribal rights activists have argued that there is a lack of oversight when it comes to violence against Native American women.

On principle, it would seem as though all violence against women should be treated the same way under the law, regardless of the plaintiff and defendants’ races and ethnicities; however, legal issues involving Native Americans contain unique challenges due to split jurisdiction. An agreement between First Nation peoples and the federal government stipulates that tribal courts have jurisdiction over disputes involving tribe members. However, because of the Supreme Court ruling in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe, tribal courts do not have jurisdiction over non-Indians, and there has been no successive ruling as to whether tribal courts can even subpoena non-members or hold them in contempt."

Get the Story:
Olivia Alperstein: We Must Protect Native Women from Violence, Too (The Wesleyan Argus 2/11)

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