United Nations Human Rights Committee Issues Report on Women's Human Rights in the United States

By Meaghan Lamarre, Internet Communications Coordinator

August 1, 2006

On July 28, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UN HRC) issued its concluding observations and recommendations on the United States' compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), an important human rights treaty that the U.S. ratified in 1992. The Committee's report contains a thorough inventory of numerous failures of the United States to comply with treaty provisions concerning prisoner abuse and interrogation, secret detention, death penalty, counter-terrorism procedures, homelessness, de facto race and ethnic discrimination, hate crimes, treatment of immigrants, sex-based discrimination, among many others. The committee's observations were based on the U.S.'s own report of its compliance with treaty provisions and on reports made by 174 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and individuals about the U.S. compliance-or lack thereof-with the ICCPR.

As we reported in June, the National Organization for Women Foundation was among the NGOs that submitted reports to the UN HRC. NOW Foundation joined a coalition of women's and human rights organizations in submitting a "gender shadow report" (PDF) on the status of women's human rights in the United States, for which NOW Foundation wrote a detailed section on employment discrimination. The report was considered by the UN HRC along with dozens of other NGO shadow reports. Experts from many of these groups, including NOW Foundation's Program Director, Jan Erickson, traveled to Geneva to advocate their positions to the UN HRC.

We are pleased to report that, in response to the information presented to the UN HRC in NOW Foundation's contribution to the "gender shadow report", the Committee accepted NOW's observations and stated the following in regard to sex discrimination:

"The Committee regrets that many federal laws which address sex-discrimination are limited in scope and restricted in implementation. The Committee is especially concerned about the reported persistence of employment discrimination against women. The State party should take all steps necessary, including at state level, to ensure the equality of women before the law and equal protection of the law, as well as effective protection against discrimination on the ground of sex, in particular in the area of employment."

For more information, read the full text of the Committee's concluding observations (PDF).

The United States also issued its preliminary comments on the report by the UN HRC. These preliminary comments were largely insubstantial, choosing instead to point the finger at other countries and the committee itself. No comment was made on the Committee's recommendations regarding sex discrimination.