Cantor: Rape is less heinous to some women


According to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) rape against Native American women is a less heinous crime that doesn’t deserve protection.

Cantor has been working lately with Vice President Joe Biden on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) after it expired last year. Neither camp publicly let on it was talking to the other until Wednesday, when Cantor said the two are in negotiations.

But Cantor wants to strip from the bill a key protection for Native American women.

VAWA, which has been reauthorized consistently for 18 years with little fanfare, was, for the first time, left to expire in Sept. 2011. The sticking point has been new protections for three particularly vulnerable groups: undocumented immigrants, members of the LGBT community and Native Americans.

The additions are supported by Democrats and opposed by House Republicans, who are calling them politically driven. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill in April with the additional protections, and House Republicans passed their own bill in May that omitted those three provisions. Since then, the issue has gone nowhere.

The rate of sexual assault on Native-American women is more than twice the national average. And according to Amnesty International, 86% of Native American women who are raped are attacked by non-Indians—who are beyond the reach of tribal authorities. As a result, “we have serial rapists on the reservation—that are non-Indian—because they know they can get away with it,” one native American activist told Salon.

So some House Republicans proposed a measure to fix the problem, by allowing tribal courts to try non-Indians in such cases, while still letting the defendants move the case to a federal court if they felt their rights weren’t being protected.

But Cantor—who’s seen as influential with the conservative wing of the House GOP caucus—isblocking the proposal because he doesn’t want to give added jurisdictions to Indian tribes. And he may end up killing the VAWA re-authorization over the dispute.

In other words, for Cantor, limiting the authority of tribal courts is more important than making sure rapists are prosecuted and women are protected from domestic violence. And now that the elections are over, and the GOP received the message that they need to do a better job of appealing to women and minorities, is good to get that clear.