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By Tina Praino

The United Nations sent three women to the United States for ten days this month to analyze women’s rights and the state of gender equality in the country. They were appalled. The UN issued a report with strong language stating that the extreme polarization of US politics is “profoundly” affecting the United States government’s ability to guarantee woman their human rights. The women who visited said they were ‘horrified’ as they reported on what they called ‘missing rights’ for women in the country. Many of these rights are rights that women in other leading nations have currently and have had for some time. And one of the findings that surprised them was the fact that women in the US don’t even realize that they are missing out on rights that women in other countries have. The US government is failing women and US women don’t even realize it.

These three women were from Poland, UK, and Costa Rica and they visited Alabama, Texas and Oregon. Those are definitely tough states with respect to women’s rights and equality in general.

They specifically assessed wage equality, maternity leave, affordable child care, and the treatment of immigrants in the prison system. They cited their strong concern that women aren’t guaranteed maternity leave in the United States. The US is one of only four countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee that basic right. They cited their concern with the lack of accommodation in the workplace for pregnant women. They cited their concern for treatment of immigrants in the prison system. They also focused strongly on the rates of violence towards women and the rates of gun violence specifically stating there is a need for gun regulations.

One of the major topics of discussion after their visit was the amount of vilification women in the US receive with respect to reproductive rights. They visited an abortion clinic in Alabama and were harassed by protestors. One of the women called the harassment a form of terrorism and explained that in most European countries if a woman is going to have an abortion her general practitioner performs the procedure in a regular hospital where she receives full access to healthcare without harassment.

The US is one of only seven countries to choose not to ratify the UN women’s bill of rights

The UN has been focusing strongly on closing gender equality gaps worldwide. In 2010 they created UN Women, an entity for “Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women” whose mission is to ensure that women across the globe are given access to basic human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil arenas or any other field. They drafted a treaty for women’s human rights which requires countries that ratify it to focus on gender inequalities and put meaningful programs in place to bridge those gaps.  Unfortunately, the United States is one of only seven countries who have not ratified this treaty and the UN blames partisan politics in the US for this.


I can say honestly that this writer is not at all surprised that the UN representatives weren’t happy with their findings on their visit. Women’s rights have never been on par with men in this country or anywhere else to be honest and have been taking a hard beating here specifically for the last fifteen years. In 1998 the United States ranked 59th in the world for women’s representation in legislature. That isn’t a good number given that we are 3rd in population. And things are not moving in the right direction. We currently rank 95th, according to Representation 2020, a non-profit organization whose mission is raise awareness about the underrepresentation of women in legislatures.


Position Percentage
Cabinet 30%
Congress 19%
State Legislature*

*Varies drastically by state

Governor 10%

Looking at those numbers of course there are issues with women’s rights being focused on here. When women account for a little more than 50% of the population this kind of underrepresentation is unacceptable.


If you want to look at one glaring example of how men and women are treated differently in the US, look at wage. We currently rank 22nd for wage equality in the world with a gender wage gap of 21%. In other words, women in the United States make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes in the same job. And this is an improvement. In 1955 women only made 64 cents on the dollar in the US. Unfortunately; at the current mathematic rate of improvement it will take more than 100 years for women to be on equal wage footing with men in the United States.

And like most issues in the United States partisan politics plays a huge impact on what this looks like across the nation. Wage inequality in the United States varies drastically from state to state and ranges from women making less than 69 cents on the dollar for the same work men do (Louisiana) to making 82-89% (NY, FL, NC, NV).  There has been a focus on this issue since President Barack Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law in 2009 making wage discrimination based on sex illegal.  The UN commended the current administration for it’s focus on changing things for the better for women.

As a woman who has held positions with full hiring responsibility for most of my career; I can say that there has been improvement but things aren’t moving fast enough. I still find myself reviewing payroll statistics where I point out a gender wage gap and recommend the business level those wages or remain exposed to litigation. I have even consulted with businesses here in the south who don’t hire women for varying reasons that are never good enough.


The gender equality debate is a hot one. The 2016 candidates have different positions with respect to women’s issues; however, the democrats have historically been more receptive to creating meaningful change. Here are the official positions of both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party according to Crowdpac, a political information resource.

Official Republican Party Position

“We support military women’s exemption from direct ground combat units and infantry battalions”

“The Republican Party opposes the UN Convention on Women’s Rights because its “…long-range impact on the American family is ominous or unclear.”

^According to Crowdpac the 2012 Republican Party Platform does not include other language on issues related to gender equality.


Official Democratic Party Position

“We Democrats will continue to support efforts to ensure that workers can combat gender discrimination in the workplace.” The Party supports the Paycheck Fairness Act and broadening the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Party supports ratifying the UN Convention on Women’s Rights and the Equal Rights Amendment. The Party opposes charging women more for healthcare and believes women should have “…free access to preventative care, including…contraception.”


The reality that women’s rights are lagging in the United States should not be a surprise. The topic of women’s rights whether it be healthcare or wage has been debated for as long as women have had a pulpit to stand upon. The views of the 2016 candidates vary so greatly on these issues I am certain the next president will have an impact on whether we see the gender equality gap increase or decrease. I urge women and anyone else who think women’s rights are human rights to educate themselves so that they aren’t voting against their own best interests or the best interests of the women in their family.

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