Shadow Report on Women's Human Rights in the U.S. under the ICCPR Submitted
Saturday, July 15, 2006 11:35 AM

A coalition of women's and human rights organizations, including The Advocates for Human Rights, has submitted a Shadow Report to the United Nations Human Rights Committe on the status of women's rights in the United States. Specifically, it criticizes U.S. compliance with gender equality mandates established in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), an international human rights treaty ratified by the United States in 1992. The report touches on the status and treatment of women in several contexts, from the criminal justice system to their reproductive rights to the enforcement of anti-violence and anti-discrimination laws. According to the report, United States policy is lacking in these areas and others, making it one of the least supportive developed nations in regard to women’s rights and gender equality.

The report notes the challenges faced by working women, including poorly enforced anti-discrimination employment laws; the lack of unemployment insurance and health care coverage; an inadequate minimum wage that forces many families below the poverty line; and the lack of government-provided family supports that are common to other developed nations.

Women’s vulnerability under current asylum laws is also given significant consideration in the report. It calls on the U.S. government to recognize gender-based persecution as grounds for asylum and to consider sexual violence (or fear of sexual violence) as a viable defense. An unwillingness to do so disregards the particular vulnerabilities women face as a result of their sex and stringent U.S. asylum policies disproportionately penalize women.

The report also calls attention to the treatment of women in prisons, particularly the practice of shackling pregnant women on the way to the hospital and throughout the birthing process. Furthermore, women’s reproductive rights are often ignored while incarcerated and access to abortion is denied.

The report takes issue with the handling of sex education as well, criticizing the recent U.S. focus on abstinence-only education. It claims that abstinence-only curriculums censor accurate and practical information about contraception and sexuality, stigmatize sexual conduct outside of heterosexual marriage, perpetuate damaging sexual stereotypes, and generally impede the ability of young women to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

The report provides recommendations in all of these areas for how the United States should tailor policies and practices to better comply with the gender equality and women’s rights provisions of the ICCPR.  

Compiled from: "Report on Women's Human Rights in the United States Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: In Response to the Second and Third Periodic Report of the United States of America," Human Rights Advocates International (New York), International Gender Organization, International Women’s Human Rights Law Clinic, International Women’s Rights Action Watch, Legal Momentum, MASSCEDAW, The Advocates for Human Rights, and National Organization for Women Foundation, July 2006. (PDF, 60 pages).