VAWA @ 20: VAWA IN THE LIVES OF BATTERED SOUTH ASIAN WOMEN IN THE UNITED STATES

Shamita Das Dasgupta, Ph.D., DVS

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The slapping, pinching my skin until bruises appeared, and twisting my arms behind my back began three days after my wedding. I thought this was the strain of the wedding and will pass when we start living together. But it never stopped. In a new country who would I talk to, who would listen to me? He kept saying no one would believe me, I don’t even speak English! He kept saying he will kick me out of the home in this country. My parents don’t want me back, they will be ashamed. They gave me a big wedding and expect me to be with my husband forever. My relatives will say ‘she hasn’t been able to satisfy her husband; she must have done something . . . My husband says, “You have nowhere to go, you are my naukrani,[1] and that’s how you will stay.” I have no choice.

As an advocate, I have heard some variation of the above lament in numerous South Asian languages since 1985, when I was fortunate enough to be a part of a six women team to co-found Manavi[2] in New Jersey. Organizing around intimate partner violence against women in a community that took overt pride in being a ‘model minority’ was difficult to say the least.[3] While the South Asian community denied the existence of all social ills, the mainstream[4] anti-domestic violence agencies of the time disregarded South Asian women’s distinct needs under the argument, ‘you are in this country now, therefore…’ Yet, South Asian women’s experiences of abuse in the home were palpable enough to warrant an organized community based response that was linguistically appropriate and sensitive to cultural nuances. Manavi’s birth was based on this premise.

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VAWA @ 20: THE GENDER JUSTICE MOVEMENT: THE FULLEST EXPRESSION OF THE FORMER BATTERED WOMEN’S MOVEMENT AND THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MOVEMENT

Tiloma Jayasinghe, J.D., Executive Director, Sakhi for South Asian Women

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How long are we going to push our movement to move, before it actually does? In academia, in activism, in front-line service work, and back-office messaging, the emerging mainstream of America is clamoring for a movement to end gender violence that embraces their identity and their needs. Historically marginalized communities may still be vulnerable because of structural oppressions that pose barriers to the fullest expression of their strength, but we are growing in size. How many times does Beth Richie have to note that feminists “won the mainstream but lost the movement” before we (and by we I mean all those with an anti-oppressive, intersectional lens to ending gender violence) capitalize upon that loss and form a more perfect movement?[1] “Challenges to the traditional feminist framing of intimate partner violence demand a “more nuanced framing that attends to the intersections of race, gender, class, and disability combined with our more robust understanding of abuse.”[2]

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VAWA @ 20: VAWA AND WELFARE REFORM: CRIMINALIZING THE MOST MARGINALIZED WOMEN

Ann Cammett, Professor, CUNY School of Law

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Introduction

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), originally passed by Congress as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994,[1] was intended to provide federal intervention into the problem of pervasive gender violence. Soon after VAWA’s enactment, however, national welfare reform legislation, along with a skyrocketing rate of female incarceration, served to undermine the aspirational goals of VAWA for the most marginalized victims—poor women. Therefore, the enactment of VAWA must be viewed in the political context of conservative retrenchment into law and order policies and the elimination of the social safety net. Continue reading

VAWA @ 20: IMPROVING CIVIL LEGAL ASSISTANCE FOR ENDING GENDER VIOLENCE

Elizabeth L. MacDowell*

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Introduction

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides vital funding for improved civil legal responses to domestic and sexual violence, but current approaches do not go far enough to address deep-rooted problems. This essay advocates for new approaches that address the problems survivors encounter in family courts, where civil remedies for domestic violence are typically pursued. These reforms require addressing stereotypes about perpetrators as well as victims, and lifting barriers to civil legal assistance for vulnerable populations. This essay describes the goals of civil responses, barriers to achieving those goals, and proposes amendments to VAWA to address the problem. Continue reading

VAWA @ 20: A Collection of Essays

 

 

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CUNY Law Review is excited to announce the publication of a fifteen part series about the legacy and impact of the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
This year marked the 20th Anniversary of VAWA, which was signed into law on September 13, 1994.

In collaboration with CUNY Law professors Julie Goldscheid and Ann Cammett, as well as a range of authors across several disciplines, CUNY Law Review is presenting fifteen brief, insightful pieces offering different perspectives on the impact of VAWA and potential directions for future reform.

These pieces will be published on our website in two parts: the first will go live on November 21, 2014, at 8pm, and the second on November 30, 2014.

They are available at VAWA @ 20 above or by clicking the picture!

IMPROVING LAW SCHOOL FOR TRANS* AND GENDER NONCONFORMING STUDENTS: SUGGESTIONS FOR FACULTY

Gabriel Arkles*

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Introduction

In a way, creating accessible, nondiscriminatory, and effective law school experiences for trans* and gender nonconforming[1] students is easy. All of our skills as educators apply; we can simply extend our existing strategies and best practices. Like all students, trans* and gender nonconforming students benefit from professors who care about their learning and expect the best from them, create respectful classroom dialogue on difficult issues, provide meaningful feedback, and so on.

In another way, creating accessible, nondiscriminatory, and effective law school experiences for trans* and gender nonconforming students is fantastically difficult. Simply acknowledging trans* existence and accepting gender nonconforming people on their own terms requires an overthrow of a deeply entrenched view of gender in our society: that gender is a binary, fixed, universal, apparent, and apolitical truth. Many everyday classroom practices and longstanding university policies created with the best of intentions can harm trans* and gender nonconforming students because they are based on assumptions about gender that just don’t hold up. Partly because of these policies and practices, relatively few openly trans* and gender nonconforming people hold positions—especially the most powerful and prestigious positions—as faculty, staff, or students in law schools. Fortunately, more and more trans* and gender nonconforming people are entering law schools and many cisgender[2] people want to learn how to work with them respectfully and effectively.

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INACCESSIBLE MEDICAL EQUIPMENT: A BARRIER TO ROUTINE MEDICAL CARE FOR PERSONS WITH MOBILITY IMPAIRMENTS AND A CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE

Thomas J. Keary*

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More than twenty years after the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and forty years after the passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), a recent study of physicians’ offices in five major metropolitan areas reveals that patients with mobility impairment are being turned away in disturbingly high numbers. This trend is due to physical barriers to routine medical care posed by inaccessible medical and diagnostic equipment, such as examining tables, rather than by building accessibility. The results indicate that there is a continuing need for education of health care providers and patients, as well as enforcement of these laws by the government and by consumers of health care.

Researchers at the Center for Quality of Care Research at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, telephoned 256 specialty medical and surgical practices seeking an appointment for a fictional, obese wheelchair user, who could not self-transfer to an examining table.[1] Of this number, 22% reported that the patient could not be seen because, in most instances, they were unable to transfer the patient from a wheelchair to the examination table (18%) and to a lesser extent because the building where the practice was located was inaccessible for people in wheelchairs (4%).[2] Practices in eight medical subspecialties, such as endocrinology, gynecology and orthopedic surgery, were tested. Of these subspecialties, gynecologists had the highest rate of inaccessible practices, with 44% of the gynecological offices called informing the tester that she needed to go elsewhere, usually because the provider lacked a table that could be raised and lowered, or a lift to transfer the patient out of a wheelchair.[3]

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JUSTICE SCALIA’S PETARD AND SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

Ruthann Robson*

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Justice Antonin Scalia is well known not only for his conservative views, but also his literary language. So perhaps he might appreciate how the Shakespearean phrase, “hoist with his own petard,”[1] could describe how his dissents are being used to support the very outcome he derided: the constitutional recognition of same-sex marriage.

In United States v. Windsor decided in June 2013, the Court, by a bare majority, declared unconstitutional section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages even if the marriages were recognized by state law.[2] As in two other important cases involving lesbian and gay rights, Romer v. Evans (1996)[3] and Lawrence v. Texas (2003),[4] Justice Kennedy wrote an opinion for the majority longer on rhetoric than on analysis and Justice Scalia wrote a dissent guaranteed to be called “scathing.” In these dissents, Justice Scalia not only criticized the majority opinion’s lack of rigor and exercise of judicial supremacy, but he warned of the consequences of the Court’s decision.

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SPACE LAW AND THE FUTURE OF PUBLIC INTEREST

Mclee Kerolle*

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Introduction

On April 10, 2013, the Obama Administration released its proposed budget for 2014 with initial reviews showing that there would be a $200 million cut for NASA’s planetary exploration program.[1] Critics against the cut, such as Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye, have spoken out about the crippling effect the cuts will have on future missions and the cuts potential to reverse a decade’s worth of investment building the world’s premier exploration program.[2] On the other hand, proponents of the budget have praised it for its approval of $105 million for a mission to capture an asteroid so that it can be explored by 2015, as well as its funding for ongoing human spaceflight and support for private space taxis that could launch astronauts to and from the International Space Station.[3] Irrespective of the divisions the budget proposal has caused among those in the space industry, one thing is for certain: the space industry is going through a resurgence. Not since the Space Race has there been more of a reason for people to be excited about what lies ahead. Rightfully so, considering that despite budget cuts and perceived setbacks from the public (such as the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle program in 2011) the space industry is now a $250 billion per year global market.[4]

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DACA AND NY BAR ELIGIBILITY

Our latest Footnote Forum installation comes from Professors Janet M. Calvo, Shirley Lung, and Alizabeth Newman.*

Janet M. Calvo, Shirley Lung, Alizabeth Newman

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Non-citizens who are afforded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) qualify for New York State bar membership. Over four hundred thousand young people in the United States have been approved for DACA, a program for non-citizens who came to the United States as children.[1] Approximately one percent of DACA-eligible non-citizens have pursued graduate education,[2] including law school. The admission of those approved for DACA to the bar is supported by New York statutes and the constitutional jurisprudence of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the New York Court of Appeals. The New York Judiciary Law explicitly precludes alienage as a basis for denial of bar admission. New York has a history of routinely admitting non-citizens to the bar; there is no categorical exclusion from bar admission of any particular category of law graduates based on immigration status. An individual’s immigration category does not determine whether he or she possesses the skills, competence, and moral character to serve as an advocate in the courts of New York and to ethically represent the best interests of clients.

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