When we think of countries that do not grant many rights to women, countries in the Middle East and even in Africa are the first to come to mind.
Rarely do we consider the United States.
Women in the United States are lucky in that we are able drive or get an education without putting our lives in danger.
Yet, for a country that promises so many freedoms, we lag behind in many key areas when it comes to women’s rights.
On September 27, the United Nations hosted a summit meeting in China to recognize the 20th anniversary of a landmark women’s rights conference that was held in Beijing in 1995.
The United States was one of 74 countries represented at the summit, and while the summit welcomed the representatives from the United States, their presence there was slightly ironic.
Out of the 193 member states of the United Nations, the United States remains one of the seven countries (the other nations being Iran, Palau, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, and Tonga) who have not ratified the leading global treaty on the rights of women and girls, adopted by the United Nations in 1979.
This treaty, The Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, is committed to establishing equality worldwide.
In everything from health care to political participation and seeks to combat violence against women.
How can the United States, a country that believes in individual freedom, and claims to guarantee liberty and justice for all, not be committed to the idea of gender equality?
We go to fight wars for freedom in other countries, yet we hesitate to ensure equality of the sexes in our own borders.
Something just does not seem right to me about that.
When the United Nations met two decades ago, they hoped to have 30 percent representation by women in legislatures worldwide by 2015.
The United States falls extremely short of this goal.
Only 19 percent of the House of Representatives and 20 percent of the Senate are composed of women.
In the past 20 years, the United States went down from being ranked 53rd to 76th out of 139 spots in terms of women’s representation in Congress.
This means that, believe it or not, women are represented more in the governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and China than they are in the government of the United States.
More women need to be elected into political office so that issues relating to women are considered and debated fairly.
Women need a considerable number of representatives in Congress so that issues pertaining to women are equally addressed as issues pertaining to men.
Let’s face it, with a legislature made up of primarily men, all issues only pertaining to women are going to continue to be overlooked.
Take the case of paid maternity leave, an issue that, obviously, is of most concern for to women.
A World Bank study taken in September study showed that the United States remains one of only four countries in the world with no national laws requiring paid leave for mothers of newborns.
Of those four countries, the United States is the only developed country in this list (the other three are island nations located in Oceania).
The statistics prove it. The United States is hopelessly behind most other developed countries in terms of women’s equality.
It is time for things to change, and what a better time than now: when we have women running for election in the presidential primaries for both major political parties.
Women make up half of the population in the United States. So, it is fair to say that the idea of women’s equality is not just a woman’s issue.
It is an issue that affects our entire country and it needs to be addressed.