Foreign and Military Affairs

Full text: US Human Rights Record in 2009

Updated: 2010-03-12 16:52
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V. On the Rights of Women and Children

The living conditions of women and children in the United States are deteriorating and their rights are not properly guaranteed.

Women do not enjoy equal social and political status as men. Women account for 51 percent of the US population, but only 92 women, or 17 percent of the seats, serve in the current 111th US Congress. Seventeen women serve in the Senate and 75 women serve in the House (Members of the 111th United States Congress, A study shows minorities and women are unlikely to hold top positions at big US charities and nonprofits. The study reveals that women make up 18.8 percent of nonprofit CEOs compared to just 3 percent at Fortune 500 companies. Among the 400 biggest charities in the US, no cultural organization, hospital, public affairs group, Jewish federation or other religious organization is headed by a woman (The Washington Times, September 20, 2009).

Women have difficulties in finding a job and suffer from low income and poor financial situations. According to statistics from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), workplace discrimination charge filings with the federal agency nationwide rose to 95,402 during Fiscal Year 2008, a 15 percent increase from the previous fiscal year. Charge of workplace discrimination because of a job applicant's sex maintained a high proportion (, November 3, 2009). According to statistics released by the US Census Bureau in September 2009, the median incomes of full-time female workers in 2008 were 35,745 US dollars, 77 percent of those of corresponding men whose median earnings were 46,367 US dollars, which is lower than the 78 percent in 2007 (The Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2009;, September 10, 2009). According to the Associated Press, a female pharmacist who had been working for Walmart for ten years was fired in 2004 for demanding the same income as her male counterparts (The Associated Press, October 5, 2009). By the end of 2008, 4.2 million, or 28.7 percent of families with a female householder where no husband is present were poor (, September 10, 2009). About 64 million, or 70 percent of working-age American women have no health insurance coverage, or have inadequate coverage, high medical bills or debt problems, or problems in accessing care because of cost (The China Press, May 12, 2009).

Women are frequent victims of violence and sexual assault. It is reported that the United States has the highest rape rate among countries which report such statistics. It is 13 times higher than that of England and 20 times higher than that of Japan (Occurrence of rape, In San Diego, a string of similar attacks happened to five women who have been sexually assaulted by a home invader in March 2009 (Sing Tao Daily, March 14, 2009). According to a report released by the Pentagon, more than 2,900 sexual assaults in the military were reported in 2008, up nearly 9 percent from the year before. And of those, only 292 cases resulted in a military trial. The report said the actual numbers of such cases could be five to ten times of the reported figure (The evening news of the Columbia Broadcasting System, March 17, 2009). Reuters reported that based on in-depth interviews on 40 servicewomen, 10 said they had been raped, five said they were sexually assaulted including attempted rape, and 13 reported sexual harassment (Reuters, April 16, 2009).

American children suffer from hunger and cold. A report from the US Department of Agriculture showed that 16.7 million children, or one fourth of the US total, had not enough food in 2008 (The Washington Post, USA Today, November 17, 2009). The food relief institution Feeding America said in a report that more than 3.5 million children under the age of five face hunger or malnutrition. This figure accounts for 17 percent of American children aged five and under. In 11 states, more than 20 percent of young children were at risk for hunger. Louisiana, with 24.2 percent, had the highest rate of child food insecurity (, May 7, 2009). Children at or below 18 account for more than one third of the US people in poverty. Figures from the US Census Bureau showed that the number of children younger than 18 who live in poverty increased from 13.3 million in 2007 to 14.1 million in 2008 (, The Washington Post, September 11, 2009). According to statistics from the U.S-based National Center on Family Homelessness, from 2005 to 2006, more than 1.5 million children, or one in every 50 children, were homeless in the US every year. Among the homeless children, 42 percent were younger than 6 and the majority were African-Americans and Indians (,, March 10, 2009). In 2008, nearly one tenth of the children in the United States were not covered by health insurance. It was reported that about 7.3 million children, or 9.9 percent of the American total, were without health insurance in 2008. In Nevada, 20.2 percent of the children were uncovered by insurance (, the Washington Post, September 21). On August 13, 2009, a state board voted that California will begin terminating health insurance for more than 60,000 children on October 1. The program could ultimately drop nearly 670,000 children by the end of June 2010 (The Los Angeles Times, The China Press, August 14, 2009). A research led by the Johns Hopkins Children's Center showed that lack of health insurance might have led or contributed to nearly 17,000 deaths among hospitalized children in the US in the span of less than two decades (Journal of Public Health, October 30, 2009). The A/H1N1 flu has infected about 8 million children under 18 from April to October 2009, killing 540 of them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States (USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, November 13, 2009).

Children are exposed to violence and living in fear. It is reported that 1,494 children younger than 18 nationwide were murdered in 2008 (USA Today, October 8, 2009). A report released by the Health Department of the New York City on June 16, 2009 showed that between 2001 and 2007, the national average rate of child deaths was 20 per 100,000 children aged 1 to 12 years. Homicide rates were 1.3 deaths per 100,000 among the group ( A survey conducted by the US Justice Department on 4,549 kids and adolescents aged 17 and younger between January and May of 2008 showed, more than 60 percent of children surveyed were exposed to violence within the past year, either directly or indirectly. Nearly half of all children surveyed were assaulted at least once in the past year, about 6 percent were victimized sexually, and 13 percent reported having been physically bullied in the past year (The Associated Press, October 7, 2009). There have been at least 1,227 children died from abuse or neglect in Texas since 2002 (The Houston Chronicle, October 22, 2009). According to research of US-based institution and public health media reports, in the US, one third of children who run away or were expelled from home performed sexual acts in exchange for food, drugs and a place to stay every year. The justice system no longer considers them as young victims, but as juvenile offenders (The China Press, October 28, 2009).

Child farmworkers are prevalent. An organization devoted to protecting children's rights disclosed that as many as 400,000 children are estimated to work on US farms. Davis Strauss, executive director of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs, noted that for decades, children, some as young as eight years old, have labored in the fields using sharp tools and toiling amongst dangerous pesticides. The association's president Ernie Flores said children account for about 20 percent of all farm fatalities in the United States (Spain's Uprising newspaper, October 14, 2009). A labor standards act permits a child beyond 13 to work in heat for long time in a farm, but does not permit that child to work in an air-conditioned office and even forbids them working in a fast food restaurant.

The US is the only country in the world that does not apply parole system to minors. Detentions of juveniles have increased 44 percent from 1985 to 2002. Many children only committed only minor crimes but could not get assistance from lawyers. Many procurators and judges turned a blind eye on abuse in juvenile prisons.

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