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.
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.”
In most European countries, she explained, abortions are performed at general doctors’ offices and hospitals that offer all kinds of other health services, so there aren’t protesters waiting to heckle the women who enter.
The women discovered during their visit that women in the United States have “missing rights” compared to the rest of the world. For instance, the U.S. is one of three countries in the world that does not guarantee women paid maternity leave. The U.N. suggests that countries guarantee at least 14 weeks of paid parental leave. Some countries go further – Iceland requires five months paid leave for each parent, and an additional two months to be shared between them.
“The lack of accommodation in the workplace to women’s pregnancy, birth and post-natal needs is shocking,” Raday said. “Unthinkable in any society, and certainly one of the richest societies in the world.”
Another main area of concern for the delegation is violence against women – particularly gun violence. Women are 11 times more likely to be killed by a gun in the United States than in other high-income countries, and most of those murdersare perpetrated by an intimate partner. While the Obama administration has talked a lot about combatting violence against women, its efforts have been frustrated by Congress’ inability to pass new federal gun restrictions.
Your voice sounds completely different in different languages. It alters your personality somehow. I don’t think people get the same feeling from you. The rhythm changes. Because the rhythm of the language is different, it changes your inner rhythm and that changes how you process everything.
When I hear myself speak French, I look at myself differently. Certain aspects will feel closer to the way I feel or the way I am and others won’t. I like that—to tour different sides of yourself. I often find when looking at people who are comfortable in many languages, they’re more comfortable talking about emotional stuff in a certain language or political stuff in another and that’s really interesting, how people relate to those languages.