Editorial, Opinion

EDIT: Violence Against Women Act now a victory for transgender rights, too

U.S. President Barack Obama amended The Violence Against Women Act for the 19th time on March 7, making it the most inclusive it has ever been. Originally, those who identified as LGBTQ were not protected by VAWA. As of Oct. 1, the law began funding hotlines, shelters and other social services for most domestic and dating abuse survivors.

Most importantly, the law addresses violent incidents on college campuses.  Universities must address domestic violence incidents, sexual assault and violence within personal relationships on campus and must report data of every reported occurrence every year.

To put it succinctly, there is now significantly more protection for a wider range of people. Whether a person identifies as transgender, genderqueer or intersex, they are now supported by VAWA. It certainly took long enough.

So why is nobody talking about it? Yes, the government shutdown on Tuesday dominated every news outlet still publishing, but why hasn’t Huffington Post Gay-Voices even mentioned the law going into effect? When the president signed the bill, a few news outlets gave it minimal attention, barely touching on the implications for the benefit for LGB people, let alone for the transgender community.

This is representative of a severe lack of discussion about transgender issues. Without an open forum that reaches more people, how is the world going to learn about gender identity? Thankfully, the federal government recognizes that survivors of domestic violence, regardless of identity,  all deserve to have access to the same services to speedy economic, social and emotional recovery.

But the bill isn’t perfect. There is another group of people living on American soil still left to fend for themselves. According to statistics from the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, 34 percent of American Indian and Native Alaskan women will be raped in their lifetime and 39 percent will experience domestic violence. Native women are murdered at more than 10 times the national average. Why doesn’t the bill cover them?

Borders. Just borders. If a Native American woman, whether cisgender or transgender, calls the police after a sexual assault, the officers cannot just walk onto her tribe’s land. It’s like American police answering a 911 call from Canada.

So, again, certain minorities are not afforded the same rights. Safety is, and should be, a priority. Although the law opens doors to thousands of Americans, there still remains one group of people who will not be treated like the dominant social classes. The newest amendment still expands VAWA to more people, and it is a good representation of the productiveness in Congress, despite the tense political climate in the moment. But it still has quite a long way to go.