UN Rates Gender Equality Around The World. Where Does The US Stand?

Recently, a UN task force arrived in the U.S. to assess women’s rights compared to the rest of the world, and their results may surprise you. Then again, if you’re a woman living in the States, they may be exactly what you would expect them to find.

Image via MCAD Library, available under a Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution-Sharealike license.
Image via MCAD Library, available under a Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution-Sharealike license.

First off, women are at an economic disadvantage since the wage gap is still sitting around at 21 percent, and hasn’t changed significantly in a decade. The task force points to raising the minimum wage as one of the most effective ways to help close this wage gap. Although the wage gap actually increases with the education levels of employees, there are more women than men in minimum wage jobs.

Women’s ability to earn a liveable income is also affected by the fact that women are most often caretakers of the people in their lives: kids, elderly family members, and folks with special needs. Most American employers don’t work around domestic support situations, so the woman is sometimes forced into undocumented work or part-time work in order to accommodate family commitments.

In addition, the task force noticed the massive disparity in representation of men and women in pretty much all areas of commerce and government.

They lauded Obamacare for helping to close the gap in women’s access to health care, although they pointed to a lack of universal health care as an issue that affects women more than men. Intersectionality is a major factor in this case, as women of color and undocumented women are especially at risk.

Another area of concern was access to reproductive healthcare and support. In light of the recent Planned Parenthood attack, the report writers had this to say:

“[M]any of the clinics work in conditions of constant threats, harassment and vandalising, too often without any kind of protection measures by law enforcement officials… The recent massacre in the Colorado family planning centre, which occurred just before the start of our visit, once again demonstrated the extreme hostility and danger faced by family planning providers and patients.”

This was their response to the lack of safety of women’s health clinics:

“We wish to recall, as independent United Nations human rights experts have consistently stressed, that freedom of religion cannot be used to justify discrimination against women, and therefore should not be regarded as a justification for denying women’s right to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.”

Their conclusion at the end of their trip was stark and damning:

“[I]n global context, US women do not take their rightful place as citizens of the world’s leading economy. In the US, women fall behind international standards as regards their public and political representation, their economic and social rights and their health and safety protections.”