In December of last year a delegation of human rights experts from the United Kingdom, Costa Rica, and Poland spent 10 days touring the United States to determine and report on the nation’s overall treatment of women. The three women comprising the delegation currently lead a United Nations working group on discrimination against women. For their report, they decided to visit Alabama, Oregon, and Texas to evaluate a wide range of U.S. policy and attitudes, as well as the US school, health, and prison systems.
The representatives were both taken aback and appalled by the lack of gender equality they witnessed in America. According to their observations, the U.S. is falling far behind the international human rights standards in various areas, such as its 23 percent gender pay gap, unpaid maternity leave, and costly childcare.
The women told reporters of their most telling moment of the trip — a visit to an Alabaman abortion clinic.
“We were harassed. There were two vigilante men waiting to insult us,” said Frances Raday, the delegate from the U.K. The men repeatedly shouted, “You’re murdering children!” at them as soon as they neared the clinic, even though Raday said they are clearly past childbearing age.
“It’s a kind of terrorism,” added Eleonora Zielinska, the delegate from Poland. “To us, it was shocking.”
In Canada and most European countries, abortions are performed at general doctors’ offices and hospitals that offer various health services, so there aren’t protesters waiting outside to heckle the women and guilt them out of a decision they very well have the right to make.
During their visit, the three delegates discovered that women in the United States appear to have “missing rights” compared to the rest of the world. For example, the U.S. is one of only 3 countries in the world that does not guarantee women paid maternity leave, according to the U.N. International Labour Organization. The U.N. suggests countries guarantee at least 14 weeks of paid parental leave.
“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.”
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Other recommendations made for the U.S. include passing campaign finance reform that would allow more women to be elected into office. This is because mostly men dominate the systems that raise money for political candidates.
The women were obviously shocked by the state of women’s rights in the US, but the most alarming part of the trip, they admitted, was learning that women in the country don’t seem to know what they’re missing.
“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. “They would say, ‘Prove it! What do you mean other people have paid maternity leave?’ “
The U.N. representatives finished their trip by meeting with the White House and various government agencies, including the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Justice to provide their recommendations. They plan to present the full report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in June of this year.
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