WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 7, 2013) — South Asian organizations welcome the signing of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into law. Representatives of organizations around the country, including South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Raksha, and Sakhi for South Asian Women, attended the event today where President Barack Obama signed the bill into law.
Gender-based violence crosses boundaries of ethnicity and race, religion, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation to name a few. In the South Asian community, experiences of domestic violence are often exacerbated by cultural and linguistic barriers and immigration status.
For over two decades, VAWA has helped to protect survivors of domestic violence by providing them with meaningful choices, resources, and services. In particular, VAWA greatly benefits immigrant survivors of domestic violence, including South Asians, by providing options towards securing immigration status without having to rely on their abusers. Additionally, VAWA now provides expanded protections for numerous communities, including Native Americans, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals, and students at colleges and university campuses around the country.
As President Obama said at the signing today, “…[O]ne of the great legacies of this law is that it didn’t just change the rules; it changed our culture. It empowered people to start speaking out. It made it okay for us, as a society, to talk about domestic abuse. It made it possible for us, as a country, to address the problem in a real and meaningful way. And it made clear to victims that they were not alone — that they always had a place to go and they always had people on their side.”
We also recognize the tremendous efforts of South Asian women’s organizations (SAWOs), who provide vital services day in and out for women in our community who are in need of support. Below are comments from South Asian organizations around the country, applauding the passage of VAWA and recounting their work on issues related to domestic violence.
“The reauthorization of VAWA offers new lifelines that will dramatically change the future of many South Asian survivors of domestic violence,” said Lakshmi Aiyappa, executive director, ASHA for Women. “We are deeply appreciative of the sensitivity shown in the Act to empower and uplift immigrant women and children. Last year, we were successful in bringing 415 women and children out of the shadows of fear. This year we are certain the graph will rise. Thank you for this enactment as it will continue to strengthen the help we provide to those struggling with domestic violence.”
“Chhaya celebrates the passing of the VAWA bill and is pleased that the law provides meaningful support to the women we serve, their families and our communities,” said Seema Agnani, executive director, Chhaya CDC. “Every year Chhaya reaches thousands of individuals and families through community presentations and outreach.
“Last year, over 2500 people accessed our culturally competent housing assistance, financial empowerment and workforce preparedness services; 56 percent of them were women,” she added. “We’ve also formed a strong crisis intervention referral process for survivors of domestic violence with our partners and allies and hope to continue with our work to create safer and stable communities with the reauthorization of VAWA.”
“We are delighted that VAWA has been reauthorized, said Sarah Khan, executive director, MAITRI. “We thank Congress for putting the needs of women and children before politics. VAWA is lifeline for many of our clients, who would otherwise be separated from their children. We are also excited to see a new provision that would allow victims of foreign labor contracts’ fraud to be eligible for U visas as we serve many temporary workers in the San Francisco Bay Area who seek this much needed help.”
“The reauthorization of the VAWA is a triumph for organizations that focus on ending violence against women such as Manavi,” said a statement from the Manavi Board of Directors. “VAWA makes it possible for community-based organizations to receive government funding to provide critical and life-saving services to women affected by various forms of cruelty, such as domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, stalking.
“For nearly 29 years now, Manavi has been working to end all forms of violence against South Asian women,” the statement continued. “VAWA has recognized these efforts and dedication by financially supporting our endeavors. Under the immigration relief provided by VAWA, Manavi has been able to assist South Asian battered women secure a path to residency through self-petition and U-visa. VAWA affirms the right of all women to live free from violence and inspires us to build just and equitable communities.”
“The passage of VAWA is a wonderful victory for social justice movements across the board because violence against women impacts everyone directly or indirectly, said Preeti Shekar, executive director, Narika. “The new provisions in this iteration will additionally reach out to many marginalized survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and other forms of violence. That immigrant women, LGBT, and indigenous communities will now be able to access resources that can address violence in their communities is critical and remarkable.
“We at Narika would like to thank all the members of Congress who stood by this bill and ensured it passed,” she added. “We continue to live in a world where violence against women is a systemic and alarmingly endemic reality and we need systemic measures and resources to end this violence.”
“Raksha is relieved at the reauthorization of the VAWA,” said Aparna Bhattacharya, executive director, Raksha. “It is because of VAWA that Raksha can continue to serve the needs of South Asian survivors in Georgia. The immigrant provisions have been critical in ensuring safety and justice for so many of our clients. Without VAWA and its new provisions for immigrants, many of our clients would have had no options and nowhere to turn. We are so grateful that the re authorization included fixes for all survivors.”
“For almost 25 years, Sakhi for South Asian Women has worked to unite survivors, communities, and institutions to eradicate domestic violence,” said Tiloma Jayasinghe, executive director, Sakhi for South Asian Women. “We were so honored to be present for the President’s signing of the VAWA reauthorization. This legislation expands access to services and options for domestic violence survivors and uniquely impacts immigrants, including South Asians. We hope that these changes will help us move forward in our movement to create strong and healthy communities for the betterment of our society as a whole.”
“We are both inspired and relieved that this issue has finally been prioritized in the 113th Congress and was signed into law by the President today,” said Deepa Iyer, executive director, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). “We hope that the expansions will better protect those who have previously been excluded and look forward to comprehensive immigration reform filling in the gaps that this legislation could not by increasing U-Visas for immigrant survivors.
“The struggle to pass VAWA was much longer than necessary and we are so pleased that Congress finally came together to provide survivors of abuse with the protections they so rightly deserve,” she added. “We all deserve to be safe, to live without fear of abuse or harm. Today, we are one step closer to that reality.”
“The South Asian Network (SAN) is pleased that after many months, Congress passed a more inclusive version of VAWA,” said Manjusha P. Kulkarni, executive director, South Asian Network (SAN). “In seeking to provide assistance to domestic violence survivors and prevent future acts of violence against women in the United States, we must better understand and be able to address their specific circumstances. Enactment of this new version of the law will help SAN and other South Asian women’s organizations to do exactly that.”
“We look forward to continuing our work and advocacy on behalf of survivors of domestic violence in a manner that is inclusive and protects all individuals against violence,” she added. “The safety of every American is a basic right that should be protected each and every day.”