America’s gender gap deemed “unthinkable” by UN experts

A United Nations (UN) delegation from Poland, the United Kingdom, and Costa Rica visited the United States from November 30 to December 11 in order to assess the quality of its women’s rights after being invited by President Obama. According to the UN’s website, after visiting Alabama, Oregon, and Texas, the delegates concluded that the broad diversity of state legislation made it “impossible to to give a comprehensive report.” However, the UN experts concluded that their findings indicate an “overall picture of women’s missing rights” in America.

The experts emphasized that while the United States has varying state legislation on women’s rights, the nation’s range of laws “cannot be regarded as a justification for failure to secure these rights, which are universal, indivisible and inalienable,” as stated by the delegation on the UN website.

The United States was one of only seven countries in the world not to sign the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), an international bill of rights for women that was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979. “The ratification of CEDAW is crucial … in order to confirm the US commitment to substantive equality for women in all spheres of life,” the experts stated in their informal statement to the UN after their visit to the United States. While the experts noted that the United States is a leading nation in setting standards for human rights, “it is allowing its women to lag behind,” and additionally commented that the United States’ neglect of the anti-discrimination convention is “alarming.”

Throughout the trip, the delegation personally experienced “intimidation” and “harassment” when visiting health and abortion clinics, according to the Huffington Post. “It’s a kind of terrorism,” Eleonora Zielinska, the delegate from Poland, remarked when recalling men shouting at them, “You’re murdering children!” as the experts approached an abortion clinic in Alabama. The delegation agreed that the general American perspective on reproductive rights was “shocking,” as they note many more “hostile interactions” with Americans around the abortion clinics.

America also falls short in closing the gap in political representation and economics, ranking 60th globally for women’s rights. The delegation reported that the low female representation of 18% of Congress, as well as its position as one of the three countries in the world without paid maternity leave, places America at its low standing. In comparison, countries similar to America, such as Canada, require 50 paid weeks of maternity leave. The United Nations suggests that countries guarantee at least 14 weeks of paid parental leave.

The delegation was further alarmed by the ignorance of American women in regards to their lack of civil rights. “So many people really believe that U.S. women are way better off with respect to rights than any woman in the world,” Frances Raday, the delegate from Costa Rica, said, according to the Huffington Post. “They would say, ‘Prove it! What do you mean other people have paid maternity leave?’”

At the conclusion of their trip, the experts met personnel from the White House and the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Justice to recommend passing a campaign finance reform that would allow more women to be elected into office, raising the minimum wage, and passing a federal law to prevent states from restricting abortions in health clinics. The delegation plans to present their report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in June 2016.

Photo: A women’s rights protest in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2012. Image source: The Blaze.

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