Today marks International Women’s Day.
It may have escaped notice, but as recently as yesterday, a push to make Arkansas the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment was killed in committee. The initiative seeks to amend the Constitution to ensure that, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” This fundamental assertion has lingered with insufficient ratifications by the states since its approval by Congress in 1972. I guess that simple declaration is just a bridge too far, #MeToo and all that notwithstanding.
This week, imprisoned women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia learned that they will be prosecuted. They have suffered torture and sexual assault during their now one-year long imprisonment, according to one investigation. The UN has lately called for the women’s freedom. The United States was not among the countries supporting the joint statement that also called for other human rights improvements in Saudi Arabia.
The ongoing priority exhibited in state legislatures around the US continued to play out lately with several bills moving along to ban abortion for any reason after six weeks. Women aside, these bills are always advanced in the name of that great reverence for life. If that is indeed the priority, one cannot help but ask why these bills continue apace while government remains engaged in holding children forcibly separated from their parents, ramping up war agendas, and abetting suffering and death unabated in Yemen? Among. Many. Other. Things.
The World Economic Forum’s latest report tells us that there is a 32 percent average gender gap globally in the areas of health and survival, political empowerment, educational attainment, and economic participation and opportunity. The US ranks 51 out of the 149 countries included in the report, with a gender parity score of .72.
It is pretty dismal to see how these scores have degraded over time. For example, in 2006, the US ranked 23 (out of 114) for this report. It scored at the very top on the health and survival spectrum at that time. In this recent report, the US score for health and survival sunk to 71 (out of 149). It ranks even further down, 98, on the political empowerment scale. The only score that’s improved is in the area of education, now at 46.
We all know we can do better, and, when we do, it’s better for everybody. This year’s theme for International Women’s Day: ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change.”