A delegation of human rights experts from Poland, the United Kingdom and Costa Rica spent 10 days this month touring the United States so they can prepare a report on the nation’s overall treatment of women. The three women, who lead a United Nations working group on discrimination against women, visited Alabama, Texas and Oregon to evaluate a wide range of U.S. policies and attitudes, as well as school, health and prison systems.
The delegates were appalled by the lack of gender equality in America. They found the U.S. to be lagging far behind international human rights standards in a number of areas, including its 23 percent gender pay gap, maternity leave, affordable child care and the treatment of female migrants in detention centers.
Naturally, the also had to sample the local culture.
The most telling moment of the trip, the women told reporters on Friday, was when they visited an abortion clinic in Alabama and experienced the hostile political climate around women’s reproductive rights.
“We were harassed. There were two vigilante men waiting to insult us,” said Frances Raday, the delegate from the U.K. The men repeatedly shouted, “You’re murdering children!” at them as soon as they neared the clinic, even though Raday said they are clearly past childbearing age.
“It’s a kind of terrorism,” added Eleonora Zielinska, the delegate from Poland. “To us, it was shocking.”
That’s a pretty universal reaction, actually. But anyway, read on and learn what you’re missing.
While the delegates were shocked by many things they saw in the U.S., perhaps the biggest surprise of their trip, they said, was learning that women in the country don’t seem to know what they’re missing.
“So many people really believe that U.S. women are way better off with respect to rights than any woman in the world,” Raday said. “They would say, ‘Prove it! What do you mean other people have paid maternity leave?'”