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US House reauthorizes Violence Against Women Act

The US House voted Wednesday to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which enshrines critical legal protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence but had lapsed during the previous Congress.

The original bill was first passed in 1994 and was championed by President Joe Biden, who was a US senator at the time. It has been updated in 2000, 2005 and 2013.

The measure -- which would provide grants to groups addressing domestic violence, sexual assault and prevention, fund rape crisis centers and facilitate outreach in underserved communities -- passed on a bipartisan 244-172 vote. 

It also funds a first-time program to fight domestic violence against LGBTQ individuals through the use of prevention education and training, and improves housing access for victims and survivors. 

Twenty-nine Republicans joined all Democrats present in supporting the measure.

"If ever there is a fighting spirit, it is now -- to save the lives of thousands and thousands of women," said congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, one of the bill's chief sponsors, before the vote.

With the bill's passage, "we will say, no more," she added.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed the measure as a way to "uphold the right of every woman everywhere to live free from abuse."

- Closing loopholes -

The updated version of the Violence Against Women Act also closes the so-called dating partner and stalker loopholes by extending gun purchase bans to any ex-partner or stalker charged with domestic abuse, an element that could complicate passage of VAWA in the 50-50 Senate.

VAWA "used to be common-sense, bipartisan legislation to help victims of domestic violence & abuse," House Republican Debbie Lesko tweeted.

"Now, Pelosi & the Dems have chosen to undermine protections for women by pushing this partisan version of VAWA & the identity politics of the radical left."

Biden hailed the bill's passage in the House, calling the original one of his proudest legislative accomplishments, and urged the Senate to pass the measure.

"This should not be a Democratic or Republican issue -- it's about standing up against the abuse of power and preventing violence," he said in a statement.

The vote came against a backdrop of horrific violence against women in the United States.

On Tuesday, eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were murdered in three attacks at spas and massage parlors near Atlanta, Georgia.

"The mass shooting targeting Asian women in Georgia last night is a painful reminder that hateful ideologies -- including misogyny and racism -- are made deadly in America by easy access to guns," Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement.

"Women are increasingly vulnerable to gun violence -- but in passing this legislation Congress can finally close dangerous loopholes that put women in danger," she added.

The 2019 version of VAWA passed the House, but the Senate's Republican leader at the time, Mitch McConnell, refused to put it to a vote.

Topics: Violence Against Women Act , US , #VAWA4ALL
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