Gender Shadow Report Sent to U.N. Human Rights Committee

June 15, 2006

A coalition of women's and human rights organizations submitted a wide-ranging report (PDF) on the status of women's rights in the United States to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UN HRC) for consideration during its 87th session in Geneva in July. The report documents the failure of the U.S. to conform its laws and policies to promote equality for women as required by a treaty ratified by the U.S. in 1992, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The 49-page "Gender Shadow Report" details women's status and treatment in a variety of areas—in the criminal justice system, under increasingly harsh immigration and asylum laws and from inadequate anti-violence laws, among others. Documented as well are the disadvantages that millions of working women experience because of poorly enforced anti-discrimination employment laws, the lack of unemployment insurance and health care coverage, the perpetuation of a highly inadequate minimum wage that keeps millions of families below poverty-level income, and the serious lack of family supports that are common to other developed nations. These are just some of the many U.S. violations of the sex equality provisions of the ICCPR.

As the Human Rights Committee has previously expressed an interest in a closer examination of U.S. treatment of women in prison, the report contains an extensive discussion of the shackling of women in childbirth, the potential for loss of parental rights and the denial of access to abortion. The restriction of access to abortion for women in prison violates seven different articles of the ICCPR as well as Amendments Eight and Fourteen of the U.S. Constitution.

The report also notes the U.S. violation of Article 3 of the ICCPR in its practice of funding and promoting biased and non-scientific abstinence-only sex education, currently supported in public schools by hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

In late May, NOW Foundation completed its contribution (PDF) to the "Gender Shadow Report" describing expansive, entrenched and systemic sex-based employment discrimination in this country. It concludes that laws and policies in the U.S. in both the private and public sectors make the U.S. workplace as "one of the least supportive employment environments for women of any developed nation." With alarm, NOW Foundation emphasized that political leaders are currently reducing funds and dismantling programs adopted over the past 40 years that have promoted equality for women.

Other contributors to the Gender Shadow Report include Legal Momentum (formerly NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund), Human Rights International (New York), International Gender Organizations, International Women's Human Rights Law Clinic of Queens College at City University of New York, Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, International Human Rights Action Watch at the University of Minnesota, and the Massachusetts CEDAW Project with Prof. Martha Davis of Northeastern University College of Law. The report was endorsed by the National Council of Women's Organizations, representing 200 women's groups throughout the U.S. with more than 10 million members.