Washington, D.C. — Today, bipartisan majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives successfully passed both a long-awaited reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and a joint resolution to advance ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), representing a critical moment in the fight to advance women’s rights and safety at a time when both have been undermined during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jocelyn Frye, senior fellow with the Center for American Progress’ Women’s Initiative, issued the following statement:
The actions taken by the House today represent important progress in the fight to uphold women’s basic dignity and rights. Sexual violence is itself a pandemic—1 in 4 women experience domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking in their lifetime—made even more dire during the current health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19. For eight years, Congress has failed to reauthorize VAWA, the nation’s landmark law to enhance the public response to violence against women. This inaction is inexcusable. Therefore, today’s passage of VAWA in the House is a welcome and critical step toward meeting the current and evolving needs of women facing sexual violence. Among other things, the reauthorization would improve access to health care and housing, better protect survivors from gun-related intimate partner violence, restore funding for VAWA grant programs to support survivors’ safety, and eliminate protections for non-Native perpetrators on tribal land. Survivors should not be made to wait any longer for protections they deserve. Last night’s horrific and hateful attacks against Asian American women in Atlanta are a stark reminder of the critical need for more resources in communities across the country to help women at risk of violence.
The House’s passage of a joint resolution to advance the ratification of the ERA is also a key step toward reaffirming that people across the gender spectrum are innately equal and that we are all deserving of constitutional protection. Once ratified, the ERA will help bolster and enhance existing statutory protections against sex discrimination that are constantly under attack, including issues such as pay and pregnancy discrimination, gender-based violence, and the relentless attacks on reproductive autonomy and health care. It is essential to not only ratify the ERA but also to push for additional anti-discrimination policies that go beyond the amendment’s reach, to ensure rigorous enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, and to hold politicians accountable for the ERA’s promise of gender equality.
For the millions of women who continue to face violence and discrimination, while politicians ignore the reforms needed to strengthen the very systems designed for their protection, I urge the Senate to immediately approve these bipartisan House-passed measures.