Begich to Reintroduce Safe Villages Act
In the wake of revelations about specific amendments added by Sen. Lisa Murkowski to the Violence Against Women Act, passed by Congress last week, Senator Mark Begich will seek to reintroduce a relevant bill. His legislation would remove inequities that leave Alaska Native women vulnerable and unable to pursue justice for domestic violence and sexual assault cases on the same measure as tribal women in the Lower 48 states, who can legally address these issues in tribal court when the offender is non-Native.
Natalie Landreth, an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund explains:
“We are tired of the separate but equal treatment that Alaska tribes receive from courts and Congress. They are tribes just like tribes in the Lower 48 and they are entitled to be treated like all other tribes. These exclusions, which have found their way into numerous bills over the years, say to Alaska’s tribes that they are different and lesser than other tribes. In the case of VAWA, it means that Alaska Native women are less deserving of protection, less important. I find that unconscionable.”
In a post on Facebook Monday afternoon, Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) weighed in on the issue of the equality and protections afforded to Alaska Native women, and the amendments made by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). The issue of the “Special Rule for Alaska” was raised by Mudflats contributing editor, and ADN columnist Shannyn Moore in her article HERE.
I know that many people were frustrated after reading Sunday’s Anchorage Daily News column about amendments to the Violence Against Women Act. I share that frustration and that is why I’m reintroducing my bill to address this gap in the law, The Alaska Safe Families and Villages Act. I’ve been working on this bill since I was elected to the Senate because I believe we need to do all we can to prevent and address violence against women wherever it occurs. The bill will allow tribes to use more local control when dealing with alcohol and subsistence related issues—significant factors in many cases of violence and abuse. We have not been able to move this bill so far because the State of Alaska administration opposes it. I can, and I will, be more aggressive with this legislation now that I am on the Indian Affairs Committee.
Begich did not specifically address Murkowski’s role in inserting the amendments to the Violence Against Women Act, nor her response to Moore’s column on her own Facebook page. That response, and Moore’s rebuttal can be read HERE.