UN Delegates Appalled At The Treatment Of Women In The U.S.

The United Nations sent a delegation of human rights advisors to the United States for 10 days in order to synthesize a report on the treatment of women. Three women from Poland, the UK & Costa Rica who  lead a UN working “group on discrimination against women, visited Alabama, Texas and Oregon to evaluate a wide range of U.S. policies and attitudes, as well as school, health and prison systems.

The delegates were appalled by the lack of gender equality in America. They found the U.S. to be lagging far behind on international human rights standards in a number of areas, including its 23 percent gender pay gap, maternity leave, affordable child care, and the treatment of female migrants in detention centers.

The 23 percent pay gap only refers to the state of white women in the United States. For women of color, the difference is much larger. With Black women making sixty four cents, Latina women making fifty four cents,  and Native women making fifty nine cents for every dollar a white man makes. When we consider other intersections including ability, gender identity, or the kind of labor, it becomes clear that inequity is far greater than the often stated gender gap.


As part of their assessment on maternity care, the delegates were also harassed by anti-abortionists as they visited an abortion clinic in Alabama. Frances Raday from the UK explained that in Europe, most abortions are performed at general doctors’ offices and hospitals that offer all kinds of other health services, meaning that there are no protesters targeting women. The recent terrorist attack at Planned Parenthood, as well as government cuts to funding add to the multiple threats to reproductive care for women.

The women discovered that the the U.S. does not offer paid maternity leave. In fact, they are the only industrialized nation not to offer leave, and one of only two nations in the world who don’t (the other being Papua New Guinea). With recent reports suggesting that women are now breadwinners for 40% of US families with children under the age of 18, the impact is substantial.

“The lack of accommodation in the workplace to women’s pregnancy, birth and post-natal needs is shocking,” Raday said. “Unthinkable in any society, and certainly one of the richest societies in the world.” What they found startling was that most women were unaware and in disbelief that countries elsewhere were providing this kind of support  “They would say, ‘Prove it! What do you mean other people have paid maternity leave?'”

With regards to gun violence, they found “women are 11 times more likely to be killed by a gun in the United States than in other high-income countries, and most of those murders are perpetrated by an intimate partner.” Intimate-partner homicide is among the leading causes of death for black women ages 15 to 35; meaning that they are three times more likely to die at the hands of a partner or ex-partner than members of other racial groups. Also with 22 Trans women of color being murdered this year, it is clear that some women are being targeted more than others.

“So many people really believe that U.S. women are way better off with respect to rights than any woman in the world,” Raday said. For people who are living these experiences, community organizations and advocates; these findings represent a grim reality they have been trying to transform for decades.   They also speak to the importance of sharing information with women about our rights locally and internationally, the necessity of an intersectional approach, and the integral work being led by grassroots women’s groups.

The full report and all their recommendations will be presented to U.N. Human Rights Council in June 2016.

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Kim Katrin Milan is an award-winning, internationally acclaimed artist, educator and writer.

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