Why is the Violence Against Women Act a partisan issue?


Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee at a press conference

The re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act passed in the House on March 17, and is currently awaiting approval in the Senate. The recent vote has become a controversial subject, as it was revealed that 172 of the 211 Repblican lawmakers in the house voted against VAWA. 

The Violence Against Women Act was originally voted into law in 1994. The outcome was successful. According to the Bureau of Justice, the rates of domestic violence between the years of 1993 and 2008 declined by 50%. At the time, this was a bipartisan bill. 

VAWA became less popular among Republicans in 2012, when protections were added for Indigenous, LGBTQ+, and immigrant victims of abuse. Some were also against the bill because they wanted men to be included as well. Democrats, in response to this, claim the act protects any gender from domestic abuse. Feminist advocates also state that the rates of abuse against women are higher than that of men, and according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, they would be correct. NCADV states; “1 in 7 women and 1 in 25 men have been injured by an intimate partner,” and “72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these murder suicides are female,”. 

In the most recent iteration of the VAWA, there was backlash in two main topic areas; gender and gun control. The Violence Against Women Act grants “…equal access to VAWA protections for all survivors regardless of gender,” as the National Network to End Domestic Violence reports. This was writen into the bill as a way to protect transgender citizens under the law. Representative Lesko of Arizona claims this is pushing “leftist gender ideology”, specifically to the requirement that women’s shelters cannot deny transgender women from their facilities. The other primary reason many Republicans voted against the bill was the proposed changes to gun-ownership. Huffpost states that the VAWA would “prohibit people who have been convicted of abusing their dating partners from owning firearms, closing the so-called boyfriend loophole,”. In support of this, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported; “The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%,”. Representative Collins of Georgia states that he could not support a bill that “undercuts Second Amendment rights”, and Representative Greene of Georgia states; “If you want to protect women, make sure women are gun owners and know how to defend themselves,”, in contrast to statistics derived from the Bureau of Justice and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.