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U.N. Delegation to the U.S. ‘Shocked’ by Lack of Gender Equality

They released a report criticizing a lack of economic and political rights for American women.

Image by Flickr user Fibonacci Blue.

Three United Nations representatives involved in a working group on discrimination against women arrived in the United States in a delegation last month and found that American women suffer from a “shocking” lack of gender equality. The delegation—Eleonora Zielinska (Poland), Frances Raday (Israel/U.K.), and Alda Facio (Costa Rica)—released a report at the end of their 10-day visit in which they noted that “U.S. women do not take their rightful place as citizens of the world’s leading economy, which has one of the highest rates of per capita income.” They noted that, in the United States, “women fall behind international standards as regards their public and political representation, their economic and social rights and their health and safety protections.”

The delegates cited a number of factors that prevent women from accessing the same opportunities as men, including lack of political representation, inferior voting rights, the gender wage gap, deficient reproductive rights, and access to health care. For example, while women have a 57 percent participation rate in the U.S. work force, they suffer from a 21 percent wage gap.

They also found that while women across the board experience inequity in the United States, women of color, queer women, and poor women suffer disproportionately from the adverse effects of gender discrimination, compounded with racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and classism.

“Although there is a wide diversity in state law and practice, which makes it impossible to give a comprehensive report, we could discern an overall picture of women’s missing rights,” they wrote. “While all women are the victims of these missing rights, women who are poor, belong to Native American, Afro-American, and Hispanic ethnic minorities, migrant women, LBTQ women, women with disabilities, and older women are disparately vulnerable.”

The report is interesting, if not unsurprising to many women’s advocates in the States, because U.S. policymakers are so often wringing their hands over issues of women’s equality in other countries. Gender inequity is often framed as a problem that affects poorer, less “democratic” nations, places located in what is derogatively referred to as “the developing world.” But despite our pretensions to American exceptionalism, this outsiders’ perspective compels us to look inward and cast a critical eye toward our own failings.

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