7 Ways Being A Woman In America Sucks, According To The UN Working Group's Latest Report
If you had to pick a century in which to be a woman, the 21st is a pretty solid choice — but if you were picking a place, it turns out that America isn't quite as good an option. According to a new UN report on the status of women in the United States, we aren't doing such a terrific job of securing women's equality in this country. Basically, getting better isn't the same as getting good.
Over the years, countless women have worked hard in the fight for women's equality, and they've created a lot of progress. Overall, some states do better than others when it comes to the status of women, but the country has still come a long way from the days when women couldn't vote, weren't guaranteed an education or a right to get a divorce, when domestic violence wasn't illegal, and when women weren't supposed to work outside the home — and all of that progress was obviously crucial. But the fact that things are so much better now can blind up to just how bad they still are.
When it comes to how we stack up against the rest of the world, the United States is falling behind in the march for women's equality. In a new UN report, the UN Working Group writes, "In the U.S., women fall behind international standards as regards their public and political representation, their economic and social rights and their health and safety protections."
Here are seven findings from the report about how bad things still are for women:
1. Failure To Ratify CEDAW
There are only seven countries who have failed to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All of Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the United States is one of them. The report explains:
Resistance to ratification of CEDAW reflects the opposition of a powerful sector of society to the Convention’s formulation of women’s international human right to equality. ... we are of the unreserved opinion that ratification of CEDAW is crucial, on both the domestic and the global levels, in order to confirm the US commitment to substantive equality for women in all spheres of life.
Ratifying CEDAW would guarantee women many rights and freedoms they don't currently have in the United States, such as paid maternity leave and full reproductive healthcare rights.
2. Lack Of Political Representation
As the report notes:
Four out of 15 members of cabinet are women. Women hold 19.4 percent of Congressional seats and their representation in state legislatures varies widely between 12.9 percent and 46.2 percent, with an average of 24.9 percent. This represents the highest level of legislative representation ever achieved by women in the United States. However, it still places the country at only 72 in global ranking.
The report also expresses concern about women's ability to participate in the political process as voters as well as candidates, noting that recent voter ID laws passed and proposed in many states could make it more difficult for women to vote. And they note that women don't have equal representation among judges, either, which could present problems if and when women in the US must take to the court to defend their rights.
3. Anti-Woman Rhetoric
In addition to not having as much political representation as men, the report notes that there is currently a common thread of sexist political rhetoric in America. They note that "the political rhetoric of some of the candidates for the Presidency in the upcoming elections has included unprecedented hostile stereotyping of women."
4. Gender Pay Gap
The report notes that women in the United States face a 21 percent wage gap, which persists even when women are educated. What's more, women of color face even greater than average wage gaps, and there is no law preventing employers from paying women less. The report notes, "Despite the existence of the 1963 Equal Pay Act and Title VII, federal law does not require equal pay for work of equal value." They also note, "Minimum wages have lost value as a living wage and the majority of minimum wage earners are women."
5. Lack Of Workplace Protections
Women in the United States lack all kinds of workplace protections. The authors of the report write, "We are shocked by the lack of mandatory standards for workplace accommodation for pregnant women, post-natal mothers and persons with care responsibilities, which are required in international human rights law."
The report also found that women who are domestic workers are vulnerable to physical and verbal abuse, particularly if they are immigrants, and that in many fields, such as manufacturing, construction, domestic work, and service jobs, women are at risk of wage theft.
The authors write:
International human rights law requires the establishment of social protection floors for core economic and social needs, provision for paid maternity leave, and the taking of all appropriate measures to produce de facto equality between all women and men in the labour market and in women-owned businesses.
6. Health Care and Reproductive Rights
Though the UN Working Group commends the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) for expanding healthcare access and making health care more equitable for women, they note that we still have a long way to go. They write, "Despite this considerable progress, there is still no universal health coverage in the country, and too many women pay the price, sometimes with their lives, of this considerable coverage gap with strong regional and ethnic disparities."
The group is also very concerned about women's access to contraceptives following the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, and at the increase in maternal fatality rates in the United States, which went up 136 percent between 1990 and 2013.
And the report expresses concern about the numerous efforts to reduce women's access to abortion. Their reccomendation?
We encourage the adoption of the Woman’s Health Protection Act, which would prohibit states from enacting restrictions on reproductive health care providers that interfere with women’s personal decision making and block access to safe and legal abortion services; and to require all hospitals to provide these services and insurance schemes to provide coverage for abortions to which women have a right under U.S. law. We also encourage increased funding of clinics under the Title X Family Planning Program(5) in order to expand coverage for low-income women who lack insurance in order for them to access preventive care, including sexual and reproductive health services, and in order to reduce maternal mortality.
7. Violence Against Women
The report exposes many ways in which the United is failing to protect women from violence, from issues such as the treatment of women in detention centers — which include things like "over-incarceration, sexual violence, shackling of pregnant women, solitary confinement, lack of alternatives to custodial sentences for women with dependent children, inappropriate access to health care and inadequate re-entry programmes" — to the rate of violence against Native American women, which is appallingly high, to the criminalization of prostitution, to the lack of gun control measures, since gun violence disproportionately affects women.
All in all, there are a lot of ways in ways in which the United States needs to do better. You can find the full report here.
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