On International Women’s Day, it’s important to look at the ways in which the state of women has changed over time, but also the long road ahead.
Here are three key issues that women have battled over time, but that continue to persist today.
Sexual and Domestic Violence
While women have fought long and hard for awareness and widespread condemnation of violence against women, statistics show that it is still happening at an alarming rate. For example, as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states, one in every three women report having been a victim of some form of physical violence at the hands of a partner.
Furthermore, one in six women will be the victim of either an attempted or completed rape, according to RAIN. These rates increase dramatically for both members of the transgender and bisexual communities. Even more troubling, however, is the fact that the statistics may not even be all too accurate. Reporting is difficult in cases of sexual and domestic violence because victims often fear what will happen if they come forward. With this in mind, it is more likely that the aforementioned statistics are conservative.
The Trump administration has a spotty record thus far on violence against women. The administration has been unclear about how they will enforce existing federal legislation in order to protect survivors. For example, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not support the most recent authorization of the Violence Against Women Act — a troubling revelation considering that he is the legislator tasked with enforcing it.
Family-Friendly Workplace Programs
The United States falls well behind other developed countries in terms of providing it’s citizens with mandatory family-friendly workplace programs, most notably paid family and medical leave. This type of leave allows people to take time off after a child is born, to help with a sick family member, or even recover from an illness themselves. As it stands, the Family Medical Leave Act, also known as FMLA, provides up to 12 week of unpaid leave — a problematic aspect in it’s own right — but fewer than 40% of workers actually qualify for it.
While some employers may offer paid family leave to their employees, these employers are far and few between, only covering 14% of workers. On the state level in New Jersey, Rhode Island, and California, paid family leave laws have been enacted. Similarly, New York and the District of Colombia are in the process of doing the same. The hesitancy to implement paid family leave laws across the board is unwarranted in many ways, including the fact that some studies have shown that family-friendly policies actually benefit employers and families alike.
In the President’s first address to a joint session of Congress, he expressed a commitment to implementing these types of policies, saying, “my administration wants to work with members in both parties to make childcare accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women’s health.” However, only time will tell.
Many thought that the fight was over with Roe v. Wade, but the past several decades, let alone the past several months, have proven otherwise. Especially after the 2010 elections, a surge in anti-abortion politicians seized power in state legislatures. As such, a slew of anti-abortion restrictions — termed TRAP laws — were introduced across the nation.
These laws are not actually restrictions on getting abortions performed. Rather, they create conditions where it becomes difficult for women to go through with the procedure. A prime example of this is a 48-hour waiting period in Arkansas that poses significant issues for rural and poor women.
Under this law, while women are still able to get the abortion that they seek, they must go see their doctor, wait 48 hours after that initial visit, then return for the procedure. These TRAP laws have also limited the number of clinics in certain regions that perform abortions. As U.S. News reports, “a limited number of clinics means a woman may have to travel long distances to access the procedure, and a waiting period means she incurs two days of transportation and lodging costs compounded by two days of missed wages, as well as two days of possible childcare.”
Advocates of abortion fear that President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, will continue to threaten abortion access in American today.