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To Have or Have Not: The E.R.A.’s Global Impact

Courtesy of the The Sy Syms Journalistic Excellence Program


Equal Rights for Women: Lessons from Rwanda By: Kari Lindberg | August 1, 2017

Rwanda, Namibia, and Burundi are respectively ranked fifth, twelfth, and fourteenth on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2016. All have ratified their equivalent of an Equal Rights Amendment into their respective constitution equivalents, unlike the United States, which has not and ranks 45th. In these sub-Saharan countries, especially Rwanda, ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment has provided a legal framework and support to lessen the gender gaps. The legal framework of Rwanda and its social and cultural norms, which at times impede the enforcement of gender equal laws, lay a lesson for the U.S., should gender equality become a legislative priority. After the 1994 Rwandan genocide ended, 70 percent of the country was female, leaving the job of rebuilding the country’s now-destroyed social, economic, and political institutions in the 2 | TEEN VOICES

hands of women—a complete shift, especially for the previously traditional patriarchal society. Given the role of women in the country’s reconstruction period, the Rwandan government established gender equality as a legal framework with the 2003 adoption of Article 9 in the Rwandan Constitution, which guarantees equal gender rights and requires women to be granted “at least thirty percent (30%) of posts in decision-making organs.” “A legal guarantee of equal rights ensured that the government allocates resources to ensure that gender promotion is not just in theory but also in practice. Women and men in Rwanda have equal rights on all matters,” said Olive Uwamariya, Rwandan gender activist with Care International. Following the adoption of Article 9, Rwanda became the first country in the world with a female majority parliament in 2008, expanding the lead to 64 percent during the 2013 elections. Educational enrollment rate at the elementary


school level has more than doubled, several initiatives targeting gender-based violence have been implemented—specifically, the 2010-launched One Stop Centres, where gender-based violence survivors can get immediate help—and the judiciary actively reduces laws that perpetuate gender-based violence. In contrast, the United States, which has federal, state, and local legislation that supports women’s equality—notably the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and the 1994 Violence Against Women Act—does not have the Equal Rights Amendment ratified and added to the U.S. Constitution. Currently, on the federal level the government is 19 percent women, one of the world’s lowest percentages of female participation in civil service. According to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. has a 56 percent rate of female labor force participation. At 86 percent, Rwanda has one of the highest rates of female labor force participation. Greater labor participation also led to a narrower wage gap; in Rwanda, women earn 88 cents for every dollar men do, whereas in the U.S., the ratio is 83 cents. Individual finances aside, Rwandan women now benefit under law from three months of paid maternity leave, making it easier for women to rejoin the labor market while having a family. The United States is still the only developed country to not mandate paid maternity leave. Many Rwandan experts accredit the pro-women laws with the constitutional framework that guarantees legal gender rights and enforces parliamentary quotas for women. However, constitutional amendments and institutional frameworks do not always translate into practice. “Although all the laws in Rwanda are positive and progressive when it comes to women’s rights, the enforcement of these laws is still the biggest challenge,” said Uwamariya. Reflecting one of those challenges is the high rate of gender-based and domestic violence, one of the highest in Africa. According to the United Nations Development Program, one in every three Rwandan women has experienced or continues to experience violence at the hands of her male relatives. “The problem of violence against women in Rwanda, as with many African countries, is rooted in the cultural beliefs and notions of masculinity reinforced through generations,” says Peace Ruzage, CEO of Aspire Rwanda, a Kigali-based NGO providing free vocational skills to vulnerable women to The Guardian. Nominated for the 2013 Guardian International Development Achievement Award for her work in the aftermath of the genocide, Ruzage believes that the biggest obstacle to eradicating domestic violence, and by extension, changing gender-based cultural and societal norms, is men’s resistance to treating women as their equals. Until that change comes, social and cultural norms continue to hinder women from participating in public spheres or feeling that they are worthy enough to say no to violence. Like in Rwanda, an amendment itself is not enough to achieve

the end goal of gender equality; it merely states it. An existing legal framework needs to work in tandem with cultural and societal norms that reinforce gender equality. The same applies to the United States. “Legal implementation of the ERA would need to work in tandem with continued cultural implementation of gender equality norms in order to close the existing gender gaps,” said Jillian Gilchrest, chair of Connecticut’s Trafficking in Persons Council, passing the ERA would be an important start. Social and cultural norms appear to assert gender equality in the U.S., unlike in Rwanda. However, according to a 2016 poll by the ERA Coalition and Fund for Women’s Equality, 80 percent of those polled mistakenly believe that women and men are already guaranteed equal rights in the U.S. Constitution, with 94 percent saying they would support a constitution amendment on gender rights. Nevadan legislators used social and cultural beliefs of gender equality to oppose the March 2017 ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the state constitution, asserting that women had already achieved equality in many spheres since the 1970s and no longer need the amendment for protection. This could not be further from the truth. Claims by opponents of ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment often do not mention that equal rights legislation is not always followed or practiced. The Equal Pay Act went into effect in 1963, but a 2016 survey by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that women earned 82 percent of what men made, with Black and Latina women making almost 40 and 50 percent less, respectively. Similarly, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act went into effect in 1978, but several studies show managers have an inherent bias against hiring women for fear that they will drop out of the workforce. Former president of Planned Parenthood and social and political advocate of women’s rights Gloria Feldt described the phenomenon as the “ingrained implicit and explicit biases that are outside the legal framework but serve to hinder the advancement of women to equality.” Experts speculate that ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment would create a clearer legal standard for enforcing existing legislation like the Equal Pay Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. “With passage and implementation of the ERA, there would be a clearer judicial standard for deciding cases of sex discrimination,” said Gilchrest. Clearer judicial standards and enforcing mechanisms were enacted after Rwanda passed the Equal Rights Amendment. This enabled the Rwandan judiciary to have greater legal jurisdiction over protecting the rights of women, most notably in the case Prosecutor v Uwimana Alexandre, in which the accused husband was sentenced to five months in prison after being found guilty of battery and verbal abuse toward his wife. Too often, unfortunately, people aren’t aware of how important the Equal Rights Amendment is until they are standing in front of a judge.

WOMEN’S ENEWS | 3


Update: The ERA and Title IX By: Christina Shaman | August 6, 2017 After Meghan Hampsey was raped, she called her mom. She was

a junior at George Washington University. Her mother, who lived in New York, got in the car. She arrived in DC four hours later and spent the weekend with Hampsey in her twin-sized bed. “I am really lucky to have a strong support network,” Hampsey said, when she spoke of this moment. Not only did she have her family on her side, but she also had Title IX. Title IX is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs. Under Title IX, schools ranging from K–12 to private universities must make sure that all students have equal access to education. This includes proactively responding to claims of sexual assault. Hampsey, who had taken a leave of absence the semester before her rape, said that her Title IX office helped her graduate on time, despite what had happened to her. She worked with her Title IX coordinator to reach out to her professors and get extensions on her midterms. Hampsey chose not to press charges against her attacker, either criminally or internally, because she had seen first-hand the retraumatization of survivors and did not want that for herself. Still, she felt her school’s Title IX office worked for her. Mahroh Jahangiri was not as lucky. She was raped during her sophomore year of high school. She had no idea that Title IX existed and no clue where to turn.“I was terrified of the cops as a brown and Muslim person in this country, and I just chose to report to no one at all because I didn’t know I could go to my school,” Jahangiri said. “I ended up dropping out.” With the help of a supportive family, Jahangiri continued her high school education at home and went on to college. A decade later, she is the Executive Director of Know Your IX, the survivorand youth-led organization that empowers students to end sexual violence in their schools. Know Your IX helped pen an open letter to current US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos published Wednesday, July 12, urging DeVos to enforce Title IX protections. The letter was signed by 114 survivors, including Hampsey. This letter was a response to events of the last month, which have proven cause for concern among advocates and survivors, as they worry that their Title IX protections could be rolled back by the current administration. First came the withdrawal of protections for transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice, as guaranteed by Title IX under the Obama administration. Then came the news that budget constraints at the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), the department charged with investigating Title IX violations, would lead to cutbacks in initiating proactive investigations. This was followed 4 | TEEN VOICES

by an announcement from Candice Jackson, Acting Assistant Secretary of OCR, stating that the department plans to hide the list of schools under investigation for Title IX violations from the public. The final straw was the news that DeVos planned to meet with “men’s rights” organizations, which Jahangiri refers to as “right-wing hate groups,” to discuss Title IX. “When the news came out that DeVos was both planning to roll back protections [on Title IX] and spending her time discussing the law and its nuances with hate groups rather than with survivors, we were outraged,” Jahangiri said. “Unfortunately, we have an administration that’s hell bent on targeting the most vulnerable young people.” While Jahangiri felt rage, Hampsey felt fear. “That those are the people she’s choosing to meet with, from the get-go, sends a message that she does not care about survivors and…she doesn’t believe survivors,” Hampsey said. “The idea that they are going to make it even harder for survivors is just, truthfully, dangerous. It really, really scares the shit out of me.” But things would not be so scary for Hampsey if she were protected by an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), at least not according to the National Organization for Women (NOW), which states on its website that the ERA would “make it significantly more difficult to roll back progress on women’s equality.”

THE FIGHT FOR THE ERA

The ERA is nothing new. It was proposed in 1923 and passed by Congress in 1972. It needed a majority vote by the states—an approval by at least 38 states total—to be ratified. Unfortunately, it fell three states short of ratification by its 1982 deadline and was never brought into law.


Now, 35 years later, the fight for the ERA has resurged. Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the amendment in March and groups like the ERA Coalition and NOW have made ratification part of their mission statements. For Terry O’Neill, a feminist attorney and the former president of NOW, the ERA is necessary because it provides a “principle of equal protection for all women,” a principle upon which new laws can be built. “With most constitutional provisions, you have to then pass laws and the basis for the law is the constitutional provision itself,” O’Neill said. “For federal legislation, because the United States government is a government of limited powers, any law that it passes has to have some platform in the Constitution.” It is not as if there are no protections for women in the Constitution, though. In 1971, a year before the ERA was sent to the states for ratification, the Supreme Court “applied the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to strike down a law that discriminated against women,” according to the National Women’s Law Center. Since then, the 14th Amendment, along with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prevents sex discrimination in employment, have been used as the basis for women’s rights in the United States. Some, like Sylvia Law, professor at New York University and one of the nation’s leading scholars in both gender justice and constitutional law, argue that the ERA is not worth talking about in this day and age. “The serious fights today are about women’s abilities to control their own bodies, whether it is about right to contraception and abortion or sexual assault and harassment,” Law said. In her view, the ERA of the 1970s is too limited. “It was a really very modest effort to change things,” Law said. “It quite deliberately did not take on issues of discrimination on the basis of reproductive choice or pregnancy. It was silent on most of those things.” She added that an ERA that addresses those issues would be a different ERA.

THE ERA AND TITLE IX

Law notes that “it’s a complex relationship” between Title IX and the ERA. If the ERA were ratified, it would be limited to the state and would not protect women against discrimination at private establishments, like universities. By the same token, campus sexual assault is typically handled within the school itself through different processes than criminal investigations.

FILING A TITLE IX COMPLAINT

Title IX investigations are filed with the Office of Civil Rights in three ways. The first route is through compliance review, which entails the proactive investigations opened by OCR that, due to budget constraints, are likely to diminish. The second is via com-

plaints made by students, such as Hampsey’s friend, who claim that the school did not adequately handle their sexual assault allegations. The third way is through complaints made by those accused of sexual assault who claim either that their school did not give them due process or that they were discriminated against on the basis of their sex during the investigation. Due Process is a clause of the 14th Amendment that guarantees the right to a fair hearing. Remember the 14th Amendment? The same amendment that guarantees women equal protection under the law also guarantees rights for those accused of sexual assault. Since 2015, over 100 individuals have taken their complaints a step further by filing lawsuits, alleging that their schools “violated their rights in the pursuit of investigating and adjudicating sexual assault,” according to a database kept by the group Title IX For All. O’Neill believes that some students may be using the Due Process Clause as a weapon. “It’s a common tactic, especially by predatory rapists, to aggressively go after anybody who holds them accountable for their actions,” she said. But Jahangiri disagrees. “The MRA [men’s right’s activits] crowd and, sometimes accidentally, even our own movement make it sound like survivors’ rights come at the expense of accused students, but they don’t,” Jahangiri said. “Title IX protects all students and guarantees fair, transparent campus proceedings for all students.” “We’re doing this work because we do believe in fair process and we also believe in protecting victims,” Jahangiri said. “There’s no zero-sum game between the two of those. We can have both.” The United States can do a far better job in punishing people who engage in sexual assault, but without violating their rights to due process, Law added. “If you want to take the problem of sexual assault seriously, you just have to devote the resources to vigorous prosecution of people, including granting them all of their rights under the 14th amendment.” For O’Neill, the ERA may be the key to increased resources. “It is a reason for lawmakers to put more resources into Title IX enforcement, to allow Title IX to grow and be available to all the different types of girls and women seeking an equal educational opportunity in whatever situation they find themselves,” O’Neill said. And while she acknowledges getting the ERA passed under this administration will be tough, she still has hope. “The Trump/ Pence administration is deeply misogynistic. We all know that if the ERA were to be ratified by the two remaining states, that it would be an uphill battle to have it enforced,” O’Neill said. “But you have to start somewhere.” Hampsey agrees. “I think at this point, given our current administration, the more we have in writing, the safer we are,” she said. “If we don’t have it in writing to begin with, what do we have?”

WOMEN’S ENEWS | 5


U.S. and South Korea: How Traditional Values with Religious Roots Still Impact Gender Inequalities By: Kari Lindberg | August 30, 2017

If cultural capital is any measure of quantifying how developed the amount of progress women’s rights have made in the country a country is, then within the past decade, South Korea’s development has shot through the roof. Some would go so far as to say PSY’s 2012 song “Gangnam Style,” by becoming a global musical phenomenon and subsequently the first video to reach one billion views on YouTube, forged the yearning for Korean music and culture within the heart and minds of a generation of global youth. Given its increased accumulation of global soft power, ranking 18th on the 2016 United Nations Human Development Report, it is shocking that it still has a wide gender inequality gap—ranking 116th on the World Economic Forum 2016 Global Gender Gap, the lowest placement of any developed country. South Korea’s gender gap seems particularly surprising given 6 | TEEN VOICES

over the past three decades. Major steps towards equality include the 2000 legal act that ensured a 30% quota for female candidates running in electoral districts—as well as 50% for those vying for seats in the National Assembly—and the 2001 creation of the Ministry of Gender Equality (later renamed as the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family), which provides a legal mandate to promote women’s equality and empowerment. Despite women’s gains in their pursuit of equal rights, experts point to the prevalence of traditional values that stem from the Confucian ideals (man as a breadwinner; woman as a homemaker; family, honor, and respect; and related tenets) that have led to fixed gender binary spheres. Speaking to the Columbia Journal of International Affairs,


Eun Mee Kim, Dean at Ewha Women’s University, described the seeming progression and stagnation of gender equality in Korea as “hav[ing] been heavily influenced by traditional thoughts such as Confucianism that really made it difficult for women to be respected equal to men.” South Korean experts point to the deeply entrenched stereotypical gender binary attitudes that weaken gender equality and women’s protection laws. Dr. Jiso Yoon, researcher at the Korean Women’s Development Institute, a government-subsidized research institute promoting women’s capabilities and social and political participation, noted that a “study analyzing gender norms of Korean citizens suggest that factors like sex, age, and employment status explain behavior regarding gender roles.” Clear gender bias, stemming from traditional gender binary norms, may help explain Korean women’s 63.7% participation in the workforce, including the largest gender wage gap amongst the world’s developed countries at 37.5%, according to the 2015 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) gender wage gap report. (See chart above.) Much like the role that Confucianist thought has played in shaping South Korean traditional gender norms, so too has an amalgamation of Judeo-Christian, ancient Greek, and ancient Roman thought shaped the American traditional belief that female and male genders belong to separate spheres (see chart on right). Throughout history, the American penal system has cited the notion of separate gender spheres to justify discrimination against women. The Supreme Court used that justification in the case of Bradwell vs. Illinois in the 1872 ruling that the 14th Amendment did not grant women the right to become lawyers, even if they were otherwise qualified, citing “God designed the sexes to occupy different spheres of action” as justification. Similarly, that same argument was made in modern time by Justice Kennedy in the 2007 Supreme Court case of Gonzales vs. Carhart, which upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion act of 2003 by stating, “While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained.” While the Supreme Court does not make explicit references to the Bible, its ruling implies a question about the justification for two separate spheres: Is it that these ideas of separate spheres cause people to believe that women shouldn’t be involved in public life, or is it that people use religious ideas to justify an existing social prejudice? Garrett Epps, professor of law at Baltimore University and contributor to The Atlantic, asserts that both are true: “Religious tradition belief is a cause, but it is not the only cause.” This illustrates how the traditional notion of separate spheres continues to enforces and justifies gender inequality in the US, particularly from a legal standpoint. Substantiating Epps’ assertion is the almost 3,500 pregnancy discrimination charges that the Equal

Employment Opportunity Commission filed in 2016, even though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was created in 1978. As Emily Martin, vice president and general counsel of the National Women’s Law Center, said to Fortunemagazine, “It is still the case that too many people think pregnancy and motherhood are incompatible with work.” Experts have also cited motherhood and childcare as a factor in the 18.9% gender wage gap and women’s low labor participation rate of 72.6%. Similar sentiments of a perceived motherhood penalty exists in South Korea. A survey of human-resources teams by Saramin, a job-seeking portal, found that one-third of firms had rejected female job applicants who were at least as well-qualified as the male candidates, responding that “only a man could do the job.” Factoring in such gender binary norms as child care, which is expected to be the role of the mother, and with working women spending approximately 3.5 hours a day on household chores, according to the The Economist’s 2016 Glass-Ceiling Index, female barriers to equality grow. Additionally, the Korean Ministry of Statistics 2014 survey found that 22.4% of South Korean women, ages 15–54, felt the need to quit their jobs after getting married, and 58.4% of these cited child care-related responsibilities. (See chart above.) While South Korea and the U.S. maintain laws that make it illegal for employers to discriminate based on gender, gender discrimination in both countries persist. Major contributing factors include the prevalence of gender discrimination according to traditional binary gender norms and the notion of separate spheres. Given this reality, scholars, experts, and advocates in the U.S. are pushing for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, while South Korean activists are pushing for the ratification of a female quota system, each as a way to improve female labor force participation. Activists in both countries view these laws as perhaps the only ways to eliminate traditional gender norms. Explaining it in an American context, Epps said, “If part of the Constitution included equal rights for women, and if Congress has the power to enforce this law, additional laws that may be passed to guarantee equal pay equal treatment as well, and would have a lot more behind them, in terms of the way the courts might interpret them.” From the South Korean perspective, feminist activist Hyojeong Kim wrote in an op-ed for the Huffington Post, “It is necessary to impose a quota system to ensure that 30 % of all high-level economic and political positions are held by women,” referencing that similar quota systems in Rwanda, Iceland, and Norway have helped increase female labor force participation. Whether ratifying the ERA or creating a quota system would enable complete gender equality remains to be seen. Regardless, enactment of each would help override the traditional justifications that have continued to perpetuate gender inequality in both countries. WOMEN’S ENEWS | 7


From Constitution to Classroom: Can an ERA Prevent Sexual Assault in K-12 Schools? By: Christina Shaman | September 7, 2017

The end of August brought with it a set of annual U.S. traditions.

K-12 students went back to school, and feminists celebrated Women’s Equality Day. But on August 26th, which commemorates women gaining the right to vote in 1920, we cannot truly celebrate women’s equality, because there is still no Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the U.S. Constitution. This may not matter to the majority of K-12 students, but it should, because according to gender equity consultant, Roberta Francis, promoting gender equality is necessary to prevent sexualized violence at the K-12 level. While public discourse surrounding campus sexual assault tends to focus on higher education, it is also a problem for students 8 | TEEN VOICES

age five to 18 years-old at schools across the country. In May, the Associated Press released a report announcing that 17,000 students in K-12 schools throughout the U.S. have reported sexual assault over a four-year period. Over the past ten years, calls to Equal Rights Advocates’ Advice and Counseling Hotline have increased by 400%, with many calls reporting sexual harassment of young women by both educators and peers. Despite the increasing reports over the last few years, however, this problem isn’t new. In 1993, Francis addressed the New Jersey Department of Education about the connection between gender equality and gender-based violence. Francis believes, in fact, that gender dynamics in school mirror gender dynamics in society.


“There are certain parts of the brain having to do with critical thinking that really don’t even mature until after high school,” Francis says. Students are therefore vulnerable to accepting, as well as repeating, the traditional patriarchal messages they see at home and in the media. Young children learn from the world around them and bring that knowledge back into the classroom. “It is essential to progress as quickly as we can,” Francis added, “And an ERA would be a powerful tool in achieving that progress.”

a social acceptance that if girls want to be educated, they have to be sexually exploited. We found that almost no girl that had made her way through the school system up to college had not experienced sexual exploitation or sexual assault,” Quast says. “We find that people were outraged by that,” Quast adds. “But then when you come back into this country, you start to say, well wait a second–maybe that looks like the same thing.” The Washington Post reported in 2014 that an average of 15 U.S. students per week were sexually victimized by the educators DOUBLE EDGE SWORD entrusted with protecting them. And while Title IX, the federal In the nearly 25 years since Francis addressed the New Jersey De- law that ensures equal access to education (partly by responding partment of Education about sexualized violence among adoles- to claims of sexual assault) applies to K-12 schools, these schools cents. some advancements have been made. In 1994, the Violence have no national requirement to track or disclose sexual violence. Against Women Act (VAWA) creatAs of August 2nd, there are 154 sexual ed the first U.S. federal legislation to violence cases under Title IX* investiacknowledge domestic violence and gation by the Office of Civil Rights at “We’re seeing some real backsliding sexual assault as crimes. In 2013, the 137 K-12 U.S. schools. Quast says that happening with regard to women’s and Campus Sexual Violence Eliminaan ERA would help close the gaps that tion (Campus SaVE) Act increased girl’s rights. Sexual assault fits within that.” allow for sexual assault in schools, and requirements of transparency about that it would send a clear message to sexual violence on campus. And in other countries that we do not have an 2014, the Department of Education ERA in our constitution. publicly released the list of colleges and universities under invesWhile the United States helped write constitutional imperatigation for mishandling sexual assault for the first time. tives for the equality of the sexes for other countries, including “I think there has been a lot of good progress and awareness Japan and Afghanistan, its own is one of only 32 constitutions among educators, the public, young women, programs that deal across the world that does not include an explicit gender guarwith young women, and so on,” Francis says. “As with anything, antee. It is also one of only seven countries in the world that has including the laws of physics, for every action there is an equal and not ratified the international bill of rights for women. opposite reaction. So for the general awareness and great strides “The U.S. needs to ensure in the basis of our constitution that we’ve made in individual social, political, public policy realms, the we’re really demanding equality,” Quast says. “We should not be more the pushback.” fighting the fact that women and girls should be equally valued. We seem to find that to be an international standard that should THIS COUNTRY IS NOT DIFFERENT FROM MANY be there, so the fact that we find resistance in trying to pass an OTHERS equal rights amendment…I think that is very concerning,” she For Shelby Quast, Director of Equality Now’s Americas office, this adds. pushback against equality is part of a global trend. “We’re starting to see in the United Kingdom [and] in the U.S. movements pop- THERE IS NO MAGIC WAND ping up that are looking to push back rights or looking to push It is not just law dictating equality for women that prevents sexual back protections, whether they’re based on race or gender or sex,” assault, however. While laws may reflect political will, it is more Quast says. “We’re seeing some real backsliding happening with important how countries enact these laws. Fortunately, some inregard to women’s and girl’s rights. Sexual assault fits within that.” ternational steps toward equality have recently been taken, as in Quast, who previously worked for the UN to address gender September, 2015 when the UN General Assembly adopted a 2030 justice in conflict-affected countries, said that those in the U.S. Agenda for Sustainable Development, which cites goals for achievmay have viewed sexual assault of children as an issue that only ing gender equality and eliminating violence against women. These other countries faced. “And I think now what we’re learning is that goals were signed by every country, including the United States. it’s all of us,” she said. To illustrate her point, she brought up her work with schoolgirls in Sierra Leone, who were prevented from *Editor’s Note: On Sept. 7, 2017, Secretary of Education Betsy continuing school because they were pregnant. Their pregnancies DeVos’ announced that the Trump Administration is planning to were often a result of sexual abuse by their teachers. “It just became weaken protections for sexual assault survivors in schools.

WOMEN’S ENEWS | 9


Women’s Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health: U.S. vs. Latin America By: Kari Lindberg | September 27, 2017

Rewind to the second week of last November in the United States.

Regardless of political leanings, one of the dominant questions blazing across news headlines was: Would the United States elect a female president? While America pondered, others began looking toward the international community, especially Latin America — a region known for its violence and civil wars — that has elected more female presidents and female legislators than any other region in the world. With Fortune magazine predicting that Latin America may lead the world on gender diversity by 2025, American experts have expressed a longing to make as much progress as Latin America has. “I just wish we could catch up to Latin America,” said Joan Caivano, expert on female leadership and deputy director of the 10 | TEEN VOICES

Inter-American Dialogue, in an interview with Humanosphere. “There has been nothing but progress [in Latin America] since the ‘80s in terms of women’s representation in Congress, as Ministers and as Presidents.” Latin America welcomed its first female president, Argentina’s Isabel Perón, in 1974, in the midst of an era of dictatorships and conflicts across Central and South America. Built upon strong solidarity and collectivist mobilization, the feminist movement became the major driving force in Argentina’s decision to implement the region’s first gender quota, mandating political parties nominate women for 30 electable seats. Since then, 16 of the 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have adopted gender quota laws, enabling the region to hold the world’s top regional average


of parliamentary seats (average 25 percent). In contrast, the U.S. has actually descended in the world rankings of women represented in government (from 49th in 1998, to 98th in 2016). Today, women make up only 20 percent of the federal government, with fewer than one in five members of Congress. Increased representation of female legislators is known to improve women’s rights. Often, women push for greater legislation calling for the advancement of women’s equality, especially in terms of sexual and reproductive health. “These issues are more on the policy agenda because they’re tied to women’s lived experiences,” says Jennifer Piscopo, assistant professor of politics specializing in Latin American gender quotas at Occidental College. Further, sexual assault and reproductive health (although not abortion) provide common ground “for conservative female politicians to work across the aisle with their more liberal counterparts,” Piscopo adds. A driving factor for enacting the quota laws throughout most of Latin America was the constitutional rewrite that included an equal rights clause. Constitutional guarantees have proven, in some cases, to be a crucial mechanism for enforcing gender rights. Notably, the Argentinean case of Sisnero, where Mirtha Sisnero was unable to find work as a bus driver, filed a complaint against the Metropolitan Transpiration Authority for systematic discrimination against women. Citing the violation of her constitutional and international rights, she won the case on the basis of constitutional rights, and the Supreme Court upheld the view that gender discrimination and her constitutional rights had been violated. In contrast, the United States, which has federal, state, and local legislation that supports women’s equality — notably the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, does not have an equal rights amendment ratified to the US Constitution. Still, even constitutional clauses have limits. Latin America’s constitutional limitations can be seen through sexual and reproductive rights, especially abortion rights. In Argentina and Bolivia, women are only allowed to obtain an abortion on humanitarian grounds (if a woman has been sexually assaulted, raped, or has a physical or emotional handicap). These laws have staggering consequences. The Argentine National Campaign for a legal, safe, and free abortion estimates that 500,00 abortions are performed illegally each year, with the number of unsafe abortions serving as the leading cause of maternal mortality (currently at 31 percent). As in Argentina, botched illegal abortions have high occurrence rates in Bolivia (Women’s Hospital of La Paz reporting that, in 2015, 10 women per day were admitted in critical condition due to illegal abortion attempts). Illegal abortions also contribute to Bolivia’s high maternal mortality rate, with the World Health Organization

placing it at the second highest cause of death for women in South America (205 deaths per 100,000). Although many Latin American countries including Argentina, Bolivia, and Nicaragua all have equal rights constitutional clauses, due to the large presence of religion (specifically Catholicism), these countries have also enacted similar constitutional clauses guaranteeing a ‘right-to-life.’ The combination of these laws “creates a duality,” says Christina Ewig, faculty director of the Center on Women for Gender and Public Policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “This constitutional duality makes it near impossible to expand abortion rights.” Activists and researchers have noted, however, that regardless of a constitutional clause on gender rights, weak Latin American institutions are detrimental to enforcing women’s rights and access to abortion, even when they qualify. “Although there are several legal regulations in favor of women’s rights in Bolivia, these regulations are not enforced,” says Alicia Canaviri Mallcu, executive director of the Bolivian human rights organization CDIMA . “It is only a salute to the flag, as long as cultural norms of patriarchy and religious values are held to a higher standard than the desire for women’s advancement.” Concurrently, Piscopo wrote in, Female Leadership and Sexual Health Policy in Argentina, that regardless of a constitutional clause, “Whether Latin American women enjoy material changes depends on whether their leaders are committed to passing and implementing gender reform.” In contrast, many experts believe that an Equal Rights Amendment in America would help ensure sexual rights and reproductive rights as well, especially abortion access in the U.S.. Several American states, since the rise of the Republican Tea Party in the 2010 elections, have moved to implement harsher laws restricting women’s access to sexual and reproductive health care, particularly via access to abortion. As of August 1, 2017, 53 state-level abortion restrictions have been enacted, according to Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy center in Washington D.C that supports abortion rights. More than 300 have been enacted, with 2,100 pieces of legislation attempting to curb reproductive healthcare, as tracked by the Center for Reproductive Rights, since 2011. Amy Lieberman, communications manager at Guttmacher, says that U.S. polices and policy makers alike play a key role in ensuring the continued access to sexual and reproductive rights, specifically abortion rights. “Policymakers who not only support, but actively champion, sexual and reproductive health and rights are critical to mitigating the damage of these harmful policies and putting us back on the path toward ensuring the fulfillment of sexual and reproductive health and rights.” Ewig agrees. “The U.S. has a pretty high degree of institutionally. It may very well make a difference to have an Equal Rights Amendment.” WOMEN’S ENEWS | 11


Dear Colleague: When Due Process Matters More Than Equal Rights By: Christina Shaman | October 12, 2017

Maddie Rodriguez had gone through all the proper channels. The night she was raped, she reported it to campus police at Temple University. She went to Philadelphia’s Special Victims Unit and did a rape kit. She was interviewed by detectives and spoke with the District Attorney, who told her there was “not sufficient evidence for her case to go through to criminal trial.” Unfortunately, she wasn’t at all surprised by this response. Out of every 1,000 rapes in the United States, only six perpetrators will be incarcerated, according to statistics from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Since the criminal justice system requires evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, Rodriguez said she was “pretty much guaranteed not to win, because in the end, my situation was more of a he said/she said kind of deal.” Still, she was glad she was able to go ahead with a school trial, which had required a ‘preponderance of evidence standard,’ or 51% proof that the crime was committed. Due to recent decisions made by the 12 | TEEN VOICES

Trump Administration, however , that standard could soon change. On September 22nd, almost one year to the day that Rodriguez was raped, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rescinded critical Title IX guidance, most notably, the Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) issued by the Obama administration in 2011, which required all federally funded schools to adopt the minimal standard of proof for sexual assault cases. DCL was a source of controversy since its passage, with many arguing that it was unconstitutional because it led schools to deny accused students their due process rights. This concern was echoed by acting assistant secretary at the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Candice Jackson, in her letter rescinding DCL. As a result of increased pressure from the 2011 directive, the letter reads, “many schools have established procedures for resolving allegations that ‘lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process, are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused, and are in no way required by Title IX law or regulation.’”


Law professor, Audrey Wolfson Latourette, who recently pub- then delivered to a school board, who decided that the rapist be lished a law review article addressing the Title IX OCR directives, put on Temple probation and removed from university housing. agrees, describing the Obama era guidelines as a “grievous assault “When the judge found him responsible, he got really angry. He against due process.” “I have witnessed so many cases where the was throwing chairs and slamming doors,” Rodriguez said. He was universities took steps which were markedly damaging without supposed to be allowed ten days to appeal the judge’s decision, but sufficient justification,” Latourette said, citing an incident of due they ended up giving him extra time, and we never found out why.” process violation at The University of Cincinnati, among others. “Ultimately, he did appeal, but his reasons for appealing were not “Of course we want to make up for past treatment—erroneous, good enough for Temple to have a retrial,” she added. egregious treatment of women—where these assaults were ignored. The emphasis on due process rights for the accused does make But to do so at the expense of denying the accused these funda- sense, however. “Due process is really, really important,” said lawyer mental rights?” she asked. “What is the point of a hearing that is and equal rights advocate, Jean Sweeney. “It is what our democracy not fair?” stands on.” In fact, due process is the only command mentioned For Angélique Roché, Vice twice in the constitution, both President of External Affairs at in the fifth and 14th amendthe Ms. Foundation for Womments. Meanwhile, an explicit en, the argument for due pro- “If you put the 24 words to the Equal Rights Amendment gender equality guarantee is cess is being used as a tool to in the Constitution of the United States, we have a legal nowhere to be found. distract from the real problem. For Roché, the converframework that says to every judge, to every legislature, sation surrounding Title IX “It really has to do with the fact to every child in school, to everyone…that women are to would be different if an ERA that we are dealing with a system that is innately blaming were in place. “It goes back to be honored and respected equally with men.” and shaming women for somethe conversation of valuing thing that happened to them,” the lives of women and girls,” Roché said. “These protections she said. were there for a reason.” Legal precedent around Title IX could change too. “If you put In Rodriguez’s case, she firmly believes that the accused had just the 24 words to the Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution as many rights throughout the Title IX trial as she did. “There was of the United States, we have a legal framework that says to every no difference in the process for me and for him. We both got the judge, to every legislature, to every child in school, to everyone… exact same guidance,” Rodriguez said. “I know for a fact he had the that women are to be honored and respected equally with men,” same amount of interviews I had, I know he was given the same Sweeney said. “Without that legal framework, what happens is information of how the trial would run, of what he would need to it’s just done with piecemeal legislation [like Title IX], so it can prepare, of the witnesses that he was able to have. He knew he was be changed and rolled back so women’s rights become a political able to have a legal counsel and an emotional support person. He football.” was made aware of everything I was made aware of.” Rodriguez and In Sweeney’s perspective, Title IX was the “backdoor” to the the accused both gave opening statements and a brief testimony. Equal Rights Amendment that never passed. It was passed by There was a screen between them, so Rodriguez did not have to Congress in 1972, the same year the ERA was sent to the states view the accused rapist. for ratification. For Sweeney, the Obama era directives, along with “Instead of me directly asking him questions, both he and I former Vice President Biden’s “It’s On Us” campaign, were doing would write questions on a piece of paper. The paper would be what the ERA, if it were in place, would be doing. Julie Graber, CEO given to a judge and she would deem whether the question was of Gender EQA, a company that uses data to determine gender appropriate…then she would ask the questions,” Rodriguez says. equity in business and public policy, agrees. Title IX is “the closest She added that she was more confident going into trial because she thing we’ve ever come to really attempting to guarantee equal rights knew she would not have to see her rapist. “All the other times I’ve for women,” Graber said. seen him around campus…I had a panic attack. So if I had to see Perhaps that is why the rescinding of Title IX guidance feels him or hear him directly ask me questions that day, I don’t think I like a step backwards for many survivors advocates. “These are our would have been able to make it through the trial,” she said. rights. These are things that should be guaranteed to us,” Roché The judge found the accused guilty of rape. The verdict was said.

WOMEN’S ENEWS | 13


How the U.S. Can Become a ‘Paradise of Gender Equality.’ By: Kari Lindberg | October 29, 2017

Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia, crowned “a paradise of worldwide, noted “the key to success for gender equality is a gender equality” by media for years, have routinely garnered a wishful longing from many American feminists. The aura of mystery surrounding gender equality in Sweden and Scandinavia is, however, not a mystery at all. The tools necessary to create this, as Lise Bergh noted in her speech to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2001, is to make gender equality central to policy-making. To understand how Sweden made gender equality central to policy-making, one needs to first understand the two mechanisms central to policy-making: Sweden’s welfare state and social democratic ideology work in tandem to promote and enforce gender equality. Linnea Halvarsson, policy advisor on gender based violence (GBV) to Kvinna till Kvinna, a Swedish organization that promotes gender equality and empowerment

14 | TEEN VOICES

combination of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ reasons.” “The Swedish social insurance system with paid parental leave and paid sick child care leave, enables women to be both mothers and professionals, and this is a result of the core policy of gender equality,” Halvarsson says. These core polices are supported by numerous equality act and anti-discrimination laws, such as the 2008 Anti-discrimination law (combining seven anti-discrimination laws into one), and an established Equality Ombudsman to enforce these laws. At the beginning of the 1970s, the female participation in the labor force had leveled at 61 percent. With the enactment of these anti-discrimination laws, however, female participation in the labour force had risen to 83.7 percent in 2015. While the decades old debate about whether an Equal Rights


Amendment is necessary to act as a legal framework to enforce of reporting of sexual assault coincide. “In Sweden, rape that gender equality in the U.S., Sweden, in contrast, does not have occurs ten times in a relationship is reported as ten different an equal rights clause in its constitution, nor have they ever crimes,” Halvarsson explained. “In most other judicial systems, sought to add one. it is counted as one single crime.” Why? Unlike Sweden, the United States, is not a welfare Many legal scholars also hypothesize that enacting an Equal state (the U.S has limited implementation as it applies to social Rights Amendment in the U.S. would dispel the ambiguity security and medicaid), and has legal authority shared by three around the interpretation of the Equal Rights Protection Clause, executive branches. Together, these factors make it harder to allowing judges who view unintentional gender discrimination form a collective and cohesive political and legal stance than as grounds for legal action to take legal action. “For the judge in Sweden. Therefore, given the span of the U.S. government, who wants to open up a different way of thinking about gender the absence of gender-specific constitutional language carries equality, an Equal Rights Amendment would create an option very different outcomes for gender equality. Essentially, without that would provide a way out of some of the shackles of our a constitutional guarantee of past laws on gender equality,” gender equality, the responsistated Suk. bility rests with different levels “For the judge who wants to open up a different way Garrett Epps, Professor of and branches of government Law at Baltimore University, of thinking about gender equality, an Equal Rights to interpret the Equal Protecnoted that an Equal Rights Amendment would create an option that would tion Clause as they see fit. Amendment would further Supreme Court Justice provide a way out of some of the shackles of our past strengthen existing gender Ruth Bader Ginsburg assertlaws. “If the U.S. Constitulaws on gender equality.” ed in 1979 that this has cretion included equal rights ated ambivalence around enfor women, potential laws forcement of the Equal Rights guaranteeing equal treatment Protection Clause. “Equal protection adjudication is not so would have a lot more oomph behind them.” mechanical, clear, and certain, as commentators, over courts, In light of the Trump administrations roll back on women’s and some of the Justices observed, particularly in the early rights, including: Reversing on-campus sexual assault guide1970s,” Ginsburg said. lines, rolling back the Obama care provision mandating employJustice Ginsburg’s remarks are echoed by many lawyers ers cover the costs of birth control, disbanding the White House and professors of law, who continue to assert that ambivalence council on Women and Girls, defunding Planned Parenthood, around the enforcement of the Equal Rights Protection Clause the Global Gag Rule, halting efforts to track the gender pay does a disservice to women. “Right now, if the state intended gap, and the pulling back on a 2014 law that enabled sexually to treat women differently from men, then you might have an assaulted women to testify in a public forum, many feminists equal protection violation,” noted Juile Suk, Professor of Law, wonder whether an Equal Rights Amendment would have preCardozo Law – Yeshiva University. “If the state is doing some- vented these actions. In response, Suk surmises, “If we had an thing that has a disproportionate impact on women, that is not Equal Rights Amendment, it might have changed the way our considered an equal protection problem.” politics and laws evolved; they would have evolved in ways that Further, gender experts have generally agreed that in coun- might have been more inhospitable to some of the politics that tries where higher levels of gender equality exist, higher levels are gaining ground today.”

WOMEN’S ENEWS | 15


Getting ‘Life,’ by Saving My Life By: Christina Shaman | November 9, 2017

Sharon Richardson, now seven years out of prison, sits in the din- were formerly incarcerated, have issues at home [or] domestic ing area of her transitional housing apartment in Queens. An egg boils on the stove. Her laptop is open and she’s sorting through accounting paperwork for her catering business. Richardson doesn’t know where the last seven years went, or the twenty before that, when she was incarcerated in Bayview Correctional facility for killing her abusive boyfriend. What she does know is that she is excited for January, 2018. Bayview Correctional Facility is being torn down and replaced with “The Women’s Building,” a metamorphosis reflective of Richardson’s own growth. “This dark space is going to be turned into a space of light,” Richardson said, her face glowing. “It’s going to be turned into a space where young women and girls can come, of all ages, races, whatever the situation is, whether you 16 | TEEN VOICES

violence,” to receive services specifically devoted to women. This change in infrastructure signals a shift in the way women’s issues are handled in New York City. But the construction updates have not been met with updates in legislation, either at the state or national level. A bill New York State bill, The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA), which was first proposed in 2011, has still not made it to Senate for a vote. Further, there is no Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the New York State Constitution, nor in the U.S. Constitution. When asked whether our country’s laws works for women, Gail T. Smith, Director of the Women In Prison Project at The Correctional Association of N.Y., said “No.” “We are in a country that has 33 percent of the incarcerated women worldwide,” Smith


added. Incarceration for women has risen by 700% nationally from 1980-2014 according to a report by The Prisoner Reentry Institute of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In New York City, the percentage of incarcerated men has declined steadily in the last five years, but the same cannot be said for women. Meanwhile, mass shootings continue to escalate across the country, mostly at the hands of white men, many of whom have histories of abusing their partners. An Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund analysis of mass shootings from 2009 to 2015 found that in over half of mass shootings, the shooters killed intimate partners or other family members. When women like Richardson defend themselves against domestic assault, however, they face incarceration. “My sentence was 20-to-life,” Richardson said. “As long as you have life on the back, they could hit you and hit you and hit you [with more time]. The parole commissioners that come in that day could just be having bad day, and just not like you and say, ‘you know what? we’re not letting her go home.’” A current bill proposed in New York State would help women like Richardson, who were convicted of crimes directly related to their abuse. The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) would allow judges to sentence these survivors to either shorter prison terms or community-based alternatives to prison. It would also provide domestic violence survivors currently in prison the ability to apply to the courts for resentencing. According to Saima Anjam, Director of Public Policy at New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NYSCADV), this bill is something that many people around the state have been fighting for. “The New York State assembly has passed this legislation for the past two years in a row and I think it was with very strong bipartisan support for both years that it passed,” Anjam said. Unfortunately, however, the New York State Senate majority has not allowed the bill to come to the floor for a vote. “The senate majority has chosen not to prioritize this and not to move on this, despite there being strong support for it from the rest of their members,” Anjam said. “I’m not quite sure why.” “I think the law is funny,” Richardson said, referring to DVSJA. “They pass what they want immediately. Anything that they have a really strong issue with, it just kind of is.” Richardson believes this law is being blocked due to a fundamental misunderstanding of the severity of domestic abuse. “I think it has always been that way,” she said, noting that she thinks things have gotten better since she was arrested in 1990. For Smith, it has to do with “a profound belief in the correctional system that we have now, and a belief that our system of justice is equal.” “It’s not,” she said. Equal Rights activists argue that an ERA would provide the necessary step towards guaranteeing a more equal justice system for women, by laying a sturdy framework for other laws. “The

ERA would go a long way in ensuring that survivors of domestic violence, stalking, and rape are adequately protected under the law,” Desiree Hoffman, Director of Policy and Advocacy at YWCA wrote in a statement on the YWCA blog. Still, Smith is not convinced that an ERA would help pass DVSJA through the Senate. “If the Equal Rights Amendment simply passed as a constitutional amendment–just that happening–I don’t really see that, unfortunately, making a huge difference in what we’re trying to do to protect women from unjust sentencing,” she said. “We already have a whole raft of Supreme Court decisions and legislation that say that they create equal protection for women. And the reality is, that does not play out in almost any form. It particularly does not play out when we’re talking about the most vulnerable women in our community.” “Now, if the ERA passed and that sparked a wide-ranging set of intersectional legislation that really created a groundwork for greater justice for all women, across racial lines, class lines, LGBTQ, ability, all of those things–that might be different,” Smith added. “Maybe the process of that passage will educate people and might spark a deeper understanding of the way the system actually works against women, and particularly women of color. But the simple passage, if it was not rooted in strong education and a change of heart on the part of policy makers in this country, it would be an empty promise, just like the court decisions and legislation have been an empty promise.” In reality, Smith said, many more women are affected by domestic assault than those incarcerated for defending themselves against it. “There’s a much larger number of people who have survived domestic violence who have become drug addicted because of trauma in their lives, who have committed minor offenses at the behest of their partner or to smooth things over, who will not be eligible [for DVSJA],” Smith said. “The overwhelming majority of women who are incarcerated today have survived some kind of violence.” The Correctional Association of New York found that three-quarters of incarcerated women have histories of severe physical abuse by an intimate partner during adulthood, and 82% suffered serious physical or sexual abuse as children. “The fact is about three women a day are killed by their partners,” Smith added. “It seems unfair, and it may be unfair, and the criminal justice system may have it completely wrong, but in lieu of all that, I still try to make the best of that situation, and create something,” Richardson added. “I am part of the Women’s building now, part of something, and storytelling, and legacy, and film, and pictures, and writings that will all be in that building. I’m going to be part of that wall, that memory, forever, for as long as this earth is existing.” WOMEN’S ENEWS | 17


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Women's eNews: The E.R.A.'s Global Impact  
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