United States Universal Periodic Review Concludes with United States Comments and Outcomes: Human Rights Defenders Respond

March 17th concluded the Universal Periodic Review of the United States with a public response to the more than 300 recommendations by the Human Rights Council. The U.S. stated their acceptance, rejection or reservation of these recommendations during the Human Rights Council Convening at 6:30 AM EDT (3:30 AM PDT).

Afterwards, Women Lead Network joined other Human Rights Defenders to respond. You can view the video below:

See or full statement below:

“These statements reflect the collective work and concerns of Women Lead Network, a collective of women committed to centering women’s experiences in human rights discussions and the Women’s Rights Working Group of the US Human Rights Network.  When we center women’s experiences, we include all who define themselves as women, as well as other birthing and menstruating people

Throughout the Universal Periodic Review, the Women’s Rights Working Group consistently raised the issues of women in the United States by bringing forward 3 themes: Maternal Mortality, Reproductive Access, and Gender Based Violence.  Women Lead Network centered the intersectional experiences of women related to these issues by focusing our attention on women and girls in U.S. immigration detention.

It is with significant relief that we are able to move forward on these issues under an Administration that has promised to look at, and address, many of the concerns we have raised to date.  To be clear, however, our work is not done.  Many of the issues raised by women related to their health, safety and well-being were issues long before the previous Administration rolled back hard-fought protections and continue to be critical for women to enjoy full access to their humanity.

Today in the Biden Administrations response we learned that:

They intend to to develop a plan to fully implement laws that prohibit sex discrimination, to include sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination and address gender inequality including a willing focus on reproductive health access for women “at home and abroad”.

They have committed to addressing racial justice and other forms of discrimination and have begun by instituting various policies including “anti-bias training”

They have committed to “humane” immigration practices, in particular for children, as well as criminal justice reform.

They have committed to “meaningful engagement” with tribal communities when policy decisions are made.

As to ratification of Human Rights treaties like CEDAW, they have stated that they agree with them from a policy perspective and are committed to “working towards ratification”.

In terms of COVID 19 they have committed to meaningful access to healthcare including making it “more affordable” and to protect reproductive healthcare for women.

We also heard comments praising the U.S. for its shift in position on women’s reproductive rights on a global level and its commitment to addressing gender based violence, along with questions about the lack of commitment to some issues impacting women like paid parental leave and continued confusion on the Helms Amendment which continues to frustrate efforts towards women’s well-being internationally.

However, we remain concerned that the lived experiences of women have not fully been reflected in their commitments. 

For example, we did not hear any specific intention to address the human rights of women in detention settings, whether prison or immigration detention, who have been sterilized without consent or sexually assaulted by their detainers. 

We did not hear about a commitment to ensure full access to healthcare for every individual in order to reduce maternal mortality which disproportionately impacts Black and Indigenous Women. 

While we heard some commitments to include protections for sex workers and Trans women, who are disproportionately impacted by gender-based violence, conflation of sex trafficking and sex work continues to create dangerous conditions and limit protections.

And we heard no mention of how they intend to address the impacts of COVID 19 for women, specifically,

*whose job loss has constituted 80% -100% of the reported job losses some months during the pandemic,

*who are disproportionately caregivers, including informal caregivers who have not been prioritized for vaccines,

*are a majority of health care providers who will have long lasting effect of trauma from the pandemic or

*how they’ll address the profound impact on the gaps in women’s careers and education due to their disproportionate responsibility for the at home “teaching” of children during the pandemic.

It is critical, that we remember that while the U.S. may return to its status as a “global leader” in human rights, the experiences of its own women must reflect that position.  It is also critical that we remember that the lived experiences of women in the United States intersect with many of the issues most impactful in all communities.  Criminal Justice, Worker’s Rights, Racial Justice, Health Care Access, Clean Water, Land…all these issues impact women specifically.

So, we call on the Biden Administration and other federal, statewide, and local policy makers to:

*Engage with grass roots women’s groups to facilitate ground up solutions to all domestic problems

*Ensure that diversity is not simply a catch phrase and that Women of Color are centered as leaders in solutions to problems at home and abroad.

*Apply a gendered lens to every problem and solution that is presented: specifically looking to the impacts of any policy, position, approach, or action on women in all their intersectional experiences.”