Full Text of Human Rights Record of United States in 2007

Updated: 2008-03-13 13:56

VI. On the Rights of Women and Children

The conditions of women and children in the United States are worrisome.

Women account for 51 percent of the US population, but there are only 86 women serving in the 110th US Congress. Women hold 16, or 16 percent of the 100 seats in the Senate and 70, or 16.1 percent of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives. In December 2007, there were 76 women serving in statewide elective executive offices, accounting for 24.1 percent of the total. The proportion of women in state legislature is 23.5 percent. As of September 2007, of the 1,145 mayors of US cities with populations over 30,000, 185, or 16.2 percent, were women (Women Serving in the 110th Congress 2007-09. Center For American Women and Politics, www.cawp.rutgers.edu ).

Discrimination against women is pervasive in US job market and workplaces. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said it received 23,247 charges on sex-based discrimination in 2006, accounting for 30.7 percent of the total discrimination charges (Charge Statistics FY 1997 Through FY 2006, www.eeoc.gov/stats/charges.html). According to media reports, as many as 1.6 million women could have joined the largest gender discrimination lawsuit in the US history, in which retailer giant Wal-Mart is accused of discrimination against women in pay and promotions (Reuters, Los Angeles, February 6, 2007). The average income of women is less than that of men in America. Figures released by the US Census Bureau in August 2007 shows that the median earnings of women aged 15 and older was 32,515 US dollars in 2006, 77 percent of men's 42,261 US dollars (Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006, issued by the US Census Bureau, see www.census.gov).

The poverty rate of women is higher. Statistics show that at the year end of 2006, more than 5.58 million single women above the age of 18 were living in poverty, accounting for 22.2 percent of women in that group. Some 4.1 million, or 28.3 percent of female-householder-with-no-husband-present families were living in poverty in 2006, much higher than the national family poverty rate of 9.8 percent (Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006, the US Census Bureau). Colored women are more likely to fall prey to poverty and misery. A report issued by the American Center for Reproductive Rights shows the maternal death rate of the United States ranks the 30th in the world. The maternal death rate for black women is four times that of white women. The proportion of black women infected with AIDS and venereal diseases is 23 times and 18 times that of white women, respectively. Among all the impoverished women in America, African, Hispanic, Indian and Asian women account for 27 percent, 26 percent, 21 percent and 13 percent, respectively, compared to nine percent for white women.

American women are victims of domestic violence. According to information from the National Organization for Women, about 1,400 women are beaten to death every year by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States. It is estimated that two to four million women are battered each year. Women are 10 times more likely than men to be victimized by an intimate. Women who are separated, divorced or single, low-income women and African-American women are disproportionately victims of assault and rape. Domestic violence rates are five times higher among families below poverty levels. Statistics show that 37 percent of the women in the United States received emergency medical treatments because of domestic violence for at least once; 30 percent of pregnant women suffer attacks from their partners; 50 percent of American men frequently attack their women and children; 74 percent of career women suffer violence from their colleagues. According to a report by the Associated Press, domestic violence in the United States is spreading to workplaces. Yvette Cade was set on fire by her estranged husband at her job. She suffered third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body (The Associated Press, Washington, April 18, 2007).

Women are frequently victims of sexual harassment at their workplaces and military barracks. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said it received 12,025 charges on sexual harassment in 2006, 84.6 percent of which were filed by women (Sexual Harassment Charges EEOC & FEPAs Combined: FY 1997-FY 2006, see www.eeoc.gov). The National Organization for Women said every year approximately 132,000 women reported that they had been victims of rape or attempted rape, and that two to six times that many women were raped, but did not report it. The US department investigating military crimes received about 1,700 sexual harassment charges in 2004, including 1,305 rape charges. A survey by the University of California among 3,000 retired female soldiers shows 25 of them suffer from sequelae of sexual harassment experiences in the barracks (Latin American News Agency, Havana, February 10, 2007). The New York Times said in a report that many American women soldiers stationed in Iraq faced the dual strikes of trauma from sexual abuses by their own ranks and that from enemy fire in the battle field. Suzanne Swift was repeatedly sexually harassed and abused by her chain of commanders. As she tried to charge them, she received an order for redeployment together with the perpetrators (Latin American News Agency, Havana, February 10, 2007). Maricela Guzman was attacked and raped while on night watch duty during her Navy boot camp training. She tried to report the incident for four times, but no one paid attention, and the command even ordered her to do push-ups as punishment for her wrongfully treating the boss (Latin American News Agency, Havana, February 10, 2007). Abbie Pickett was just 19 years old when she was sexually assaulted during a humanitarian deployment to Nicaragua. She said she was too afraid to report the incident then because the perpetrator was an officer who ranked above her (New York Times, March 18, 2007).

Women inmates are increasing in American prisons and they are often subject to grave conditions. Figures released by the Department of Justice in December 2007 show that the number of female inmates in federal and state prisons increased by 4,872, or 4.5 percent in 2006 to reach 112,498. This is faster than the average growth rate of 2.9 percent from 2000 to 2005 (Prisoners in 2006, issued by the Department of Justice on December 5, 2007, see www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs). Amnesty International said in a 2007 report that in American prisons, male watchers can do full body searches on female prisoners and watch them washing and changing clothes. In most states, male watchers are allowed to enter female cells without supervision.

The living conditions of American children are of great concern. Houston Chronicle reported that a survey by the United Nations on 21 rich countries showed that though the United States was among the world's richest nations, it ranked only the 20th in the overall well-being of children. In the dimension of health and security, the United States was at the very bottom of the ranking. Statistics show that by the end of 2006, there were 12.8 million children under the age of 18 living in poverty in the United States, accounting for 17.4 percent of the country's children population. Children account for 35.2 percent of the impoverished population in the United States. The rate of impoverished children in female households with no husbands present is as high as 42.1 percent (Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006, issued by the US Census Bureau in August 2007, see www.census.gov). More children are doing without medical insurance. By the end of 2006, some 8.7 million children under the age of 18 had no medical insurance in the United States, up by 11.7 percent from 2005. The rate of children without medical insurance reached 19.3 percent (Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006, the US Census Bureau). More children are becoming homeless. According to a survey on hunger and homelessness in 23 American cities released in December 2007 by the US Conference of Mayors, members of households with children made up 23 percent of the population who took up emergency shelter in 2007. Requests for emergency shelter from households with children increased in 10 cities (Mayors Examine Causes of Hunger, Homelessness, press release by the US Conference of Mayors on December 17, 2007, www.usmayors.org). According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the infant mortality rate of the United State was seven in a thousand in 2004, and the mortality rate of black infants was 2.5 times that of whites (The Associated Press, November 10, 2007). The infant survival rate of the United States is lagging far behind other developed nations. A bill that would have expanded government-provided health insurance for children was vetoed by President George W. Bush in 2007 though 72 percent of the public supported the bill (Bush Vetoes Kids Health Insurance Bill, The Washington Post, December 13, 2007).

American juveniles often fall victims of abuses and crimes. According to a report on school crimes in the United States released by the Department of Justice in December 2007, 57 out of 1,000 American students above the age of 12 were victims of violence and property crimes in 2005. From July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006, there were 14 school-associated homicides involving school-aged children. In 2005, 25 percent of students were tempted to buy drugs in school in the 12 months prior to the survey; 24 percent of students said there were gangs at their schools (School Crime Rates Stable Children 50 Times More Likely to Be Murdered away from School Than at School, issued by the US Department of Justice on December 2, 2007, see www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs). It is reported that in some middle schools in Baltimore many students go to school with weapons like knives. From the start of school through the end of October 2007, there were 216 incidents in city schools leading to arrests (Weapon Checks OK'd at Schools, The Baltimore Sun, December 11, 2007). Sexual violations are widespread in American schools. A national survey by the Associated Press in 2007 found that 2,570 educators were punished for sexual misconduct between 2001 and 2005. Eighty percent of the victims were students. A survey by the US Congress shows that as many as 4.5 million students, out of roughly 50 million in American schools, are subject to sexually misconduct by an employee of a school sometime between kindergarten and 12th grade. An average of three sexual abuse cases take place in American schools every day (The Associated Press, Washington, October 21, 2007).

American juveniles are ill-treated at boot camps. A report mandated by Congress said thousands of teenagers suffered terrible abuses at boot camps, some even lost their lives. Governmental investigator said boot camp abuses took many forms, including youth being forced to eat their own vomit, denied adequate food, being forced to lie in urine or feces, being kicked or beaten. A boy was forced to clean a toilet with his toothbrush and then brush his own teeth with it. Journal left by 16-year-old Aaron Bacon, who died from an untreated perforated ulcer, shows that he spent 14 of 20 days without any food but was forced to hike 13 to 16 kilometers everyday. When he was given food, it consisted of undercooked lentils, lizards and scorpions. His father said that he had been beaten from head to toes during his month at the camp. Martin Lee Anderson, 14, died in a boot camp after guards choked him and forced him to inhale ammonia fumes (The Times, October 12,2007).

Millions of underage girls become sex slaves in the United States. Statistics from the Department of Justice show some 100,000 to three million American children under the age of 18 are involved in prostitution. A FBI report says as high as 40 percent of forced prostitutes are minors.

American children are not properly protected by the justice system. The United States is one of the few countries in the world that sentence children to death, and some states still have no age limit for death penalty. It sentences more children to life imprisonment than any other country. A joint research by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International shows that some 9,400 minors were imprisoned in the United States in 2005, including 2,225 who were sentenced to life imprisonment. Sixteen percent of them were in the age of 13 to 15 (Spain, Rebellion, April 27, 2007). There are currently 2,387 teenagers sentenced to life term without parole (Los Angeles Times, November 19, 2007). In California there are 227 teenagers serving life sentences without parole. The figure for Pennsylvania is 433. Teenage criminals often receive the same punishments as adults do. The Washington Post said it was roughly estimated that about 200,000 teenage defendants were sent directly or transferred to the adult system, known as criminal court. About 7,500 juveniles are held in adult jails on any given day (States Rethink Charging Kids as Adults, The Washington Post, December 2, 2007). Colored children and those from impoverished families are more likely to suffer fate of this kind. The Suffolk University Juvenile Justice Center said in 2000 that African American children, though only accounting for 15 percent of the total children population in the United States, made up 46 percent of the inmates in American jails, and 52 percent of them were sentenced in criminal court. The number of imprisoned black children is five times that of whites. The number of imprisoned Latino and aboriginal teenagers is 2.5 times that of whites (Rebellion, April 27, 2007). Many children of six and seven are treated as criminals for trivial misdoings. It is reported that the 7-year-old Gerard Mungo Jr. was arrested for sitting on a motorcycle in front of his home. The reason of the arrestment was that that kind of motorcycles was prohibited in the city. He was handcuffed to a chair for two hours (Rebellion, April 27, 2007). In Florida more than 4,500 children under 11 were charged for crimes. A six-year-old girl Desre'e Watson was arrested and charged for attacking a teacher, disrupting school function and resisting school guards (Rebellion, April 27, 2007).

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