On December 11th, experts from the UN Working Group released their 10-day study on the examination of U.S. women’s employment and international human rights. They visited the states of Alabama, Oregon and Texas, and what they found was less than satisfactory.
On a global level, women’s access to rights in the United States fall behind in almost every aspect of society. According to international standards, women’s access to public and political representation, economic and social rights, as well as health and safety protection all come up short.
Even though women make up half of the U.S. workforce, the wage gap between men and women is 21 percent and it is even worse for minority women. The report acknowledged that “..federal law does not require equal pay for work of equal value.” Even though women are earning degrees at higher rates than men, the wage gap worsens with greater educational attainment. Furthermore, the percentage of women in poverty has increased from 12.1% to 14.5% in the past decade, surpassing the rate of poverty for men. Considering that the majority of minimum wage earners are women, the current un-livable wage maintains the wage gap and sustains gender related poverty.
When it comes to political participation, the U.S. comes in at an embarrassing 72nd global ranking involving percentage of female lawmakers. Developing countries such as Rwanda and Pakistan have a higher percent of women holding congressional seats. The report claims that increase of money in politics over the past few decades has made elections more difficult for women, as they struggle more than men to fundraise and are often more excluded from political networks.
As far as women’s health and safety, the group expressed some grave concerns. Firstly, the increase of maternal mortality rates in the U.S. has increased 136 percent from 1990 to 2013. This is especially noticeable among minorities. African American women are four times more likely to die in childbirth. Women’s access to reproductive care is also alarming. Even though reproductive rights such as abortion are a constitutional guarantee, women face countless obstacles to obtaining reproductive services. Clinics also face constant threats and violent harassment. The UN delegates told reporters that even though they are visibly past reproductive age, they were personally harassed by anti-abortion males in the state of Alabama.
It is clear the United States has a long way to go in terms of improving women’s access to rights. Empowering women will only empower the nation. We must acknowledge this is a necessity not an option in terms of overall growth.