What does a Trump administration mean for women around the world?
On Saturday 21 January, one day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, women-led marches will take place in the streets of at least 62 cities in 32 countries, to send a strong message of support for human rights, and against the politics of hate, fear and division.
At Amnesty International we are committed to the fight for women’s rights everywhere. That’s why we will be marching in solidarity with thousands of people of all genders, in London, Washington, Edinburgh, and many other places, to protest the rolling back of fundamental rights and freedoms over the last year both here and overseas.
The environment for women’s rights activism today looks markedly different to the view from just a year ago, and with the new Trump administration on the cards, woman and girls must brace themselves for the next four years – it could get ugly.
We all know about Trump’s heinous record: public bragging about sexual assaults, body shaming tweets, and sexual objectification of women, including his own daughter. He is also the first president in US history to be hit with allegations of sexual assault from more than a dozen women before taking office.
On sexual and reproductive rights, Trump’s choice to fill the top jobs in his administration with men who have a historic record of voting against women’s right to choose poses a serious threat to the constitutional right to abortion. Equally dangerous were the comments he made in March 2016, when he threatened that there should be some form of punishment for women who get abortions, but backtracked the next day and said the punishment should be focused on providers.
Millions of women (and men), especially those from marginalised groups and living in poverty, could also be penalised if Trump acts on his election talk to defund Planned Parenthood – an organisation that provides low-cost abortion services, sexual education, and other reproductive health services to 2.5 million people in the US.
And his offensive remarks about migrants and refugees will also hit woman and girls hard as they are disproportionately affected by poverty and sexual violence that occurs during conflict. When political leaders make derogatory remarks against certain groups of people – be it women, refugees, migrants or anyone else – the message it sends is that sexism, racism and xenophobia are acceptable. They are not and never will be.
Turning back the clock on women’s rights
Women’s rights activists around the world are very concerned that Donald Trump’s politics might turn back the clock on women’s rights, not only in the US but globally, and at Amnesty we share this concern.
The US is, of course, a very important country in a global diplomacy and has historically set the pace on women’s rights. Yet the new administration mistrust of the international agreements might mean that such critical blueprints as the Beijing Platform for Action or outcome document of the International Conference on Population and Development are deprioritised as international standard-setting agendas on gender equality and women’s rights.
It would be devastating if the US joined the group of countries proactively working to undermine women’s reproductive rights in the name of ‘traditional and family values’. A rollback of rights in the US could even embolden the anti-abortion stance in countries like Poland and Northern Ireland, ‘legitimising’ anti-choice attitudes and making the global environment even more hostile for women.
It also seems likely that the US might retreat from its position as a generous financial supporter of reproductive and health rights globally if Trump follows George Bush’s example and signs a ‘Global Gag Rule’ preventing US funding from reaching any organisation involved in abortion-related activity, including those simply providing information. It could also mean cutting funding to The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) – the only UN agency with the primary aim to support women’s sexual and reproductive health, including the fight against child marriage and gender-based violence.
What is the Global Gag Rule and how could it impact HIV support programmes and abortions around the world? pic.twitter.com/jThKlHzLBz
— The Guardian (@guardian) January 18, 2017
These cuts would send a dangerous message to the world that the reproductive rights of women and girls, and refugees’ rights are not a priority.
The Trump campaign has also already sent an ‘energising’ message to populist extreme right groups across Europe, including in the UK. Following the EU referendum in July 2016, there was a 41% increase in reports of hate crimes, according to a Home Office report. History has taught us that when extreme attitudes are on the rise, immigrant women, women of colour, LGBTI people, women seeking abortions and people seeking asylum are often the ones who suffer the most.
More activism, less hate
The new Trump administration might be a big setback for women’s rights globally, but it doesn’t have to be. The way to stop this from happening is to have more women’s rights and feminist activism, not less.
If ever there was a time to join and support the local and global struggle for women’s human rights, the time is now.
In their beautifully intersectional platform, the organisers of the Women’s March on Washington wrote: ‘Gender Justice is a Racial Justice is an Economic Justice’.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.