Twenty-five years after the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, where the world recognized that “women’s rights are human rights,” the COVID pandemic has highlighted the hard work that remains to be done when it comes to gender equality.
And the Biden-Harris administration does not seem to be standing idly by.
During the Generations Equality Forum, convened by UN Women and sponsored by the governments of France and Mexico, the United States announced its commitments to gender equity and equality on Wednesday.
The U.S. commitments reflect the Biden-Harris Administration’s domestic and global priorities, including policy and resource commitments to prevent and respond to all forms of gender-based violence; strengthen women’s economic security, and protect and promote sexual and reproductive health rights.
As announced by the administration in a press release, U.S. participation in the forum “is an important part of broader U.S. efforts to advance gender equity and equality, including in areas beyond the scope of commitments announced today, such as climate, science and technology, leadership and democracy, and education.”
Against gender-based violence
Considering that 4.8 million women in the United States experience intimate partner-related physical assault and rape and 2.9 million men are victims of physical assault by their partners, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. government’s commitment is ambitious.
The initiative includes creating the first U.S. National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence, led by the White House Gender Policy Council, and that will be launched in 2022. This plan will establish a whole-of-government approach to prevent and address gender-based violence (GBV) domestically and globally, with significant input from civil society.
Provide $450 million in supplemental funding through the President’s American Rescue Plan to prevent and respond to domestic violence and sexual assault. This includes $200 million for domestic violence services and support; $198 million for sexual assault services programs; and $49.5 million for a new program to fund culturally specific community-based organizations to improve access to services and safety for survivors in historically marginalized communities, with a primary focus on racial and ethnic minority communities.
The policy effort will focus on reauthorizing and strengthening the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which passed the U.S. House of Representatives this spring with bipartisan support and is pending in the Senate.
First passed in 1994, with then-Senator Biden as an advocate, VAWA is landmark bipartisan legislation that has transformed the nation’s response to gender-based violence, bringing much-needed resources to states, territories, tribes, and local communities to help prevent and improve the response to domestic violence, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
From an international cooperation standpoint, the U.S. committed to update and strengthen the 2016 U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally, in coordination with developing the first U.S. National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence.
As part of the FY 2022 President’s Budget, the government also promised to request $175 million to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally, as part of a $1.2 billion request for overseas gender programs.
On women’s economic security
The Biden Administration committed to providing immediate assistance to women and families through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), helping hard-hit households recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ARP expands the Child Tax Credit, allowing more families to benefit by increasing the benefit amount and distributing benefits on a monthly basis. It also includes a historic investment of more than $40 billion in child care and early learning.
States, tribes, and territories can use these investments to help child care providers-who are disproportionately women of color-avoid potential closure and ensure they can operate safely, and increase the pay and benefits of care workers, who are also disproportionately women of color.
These funds can also be used to help parents afford high-quality child care.
On sexual and reproductive health and rights
The Biden administration asserted that “everyone should have access to quality, affordable health care regardless of their income or where they live.”
That is why they are proposing to remove, as part of the President’s first budget, the Hyde Amendment restriction from government spending bills, reflecting the President’s support for expanding access to health care, including reproductive health care, through Medicaid and other federally funded programs.
Revising the rules of Title X of the Public Health Service Act, which provides federal funding for family planning services that primarily benefit low-income patients to ensure access to family planning and other preventive health care. The Department of Health and Human Services published a notice of proposed rulemaking related to the Title X program entitled “Ensuring Access to Equitable, Affordable, Client-Centered, Client-Centered, Quality Family Planning Services.” This proposed rule revises the 2019 rules by readopting the 2000 regulations. Several modifications are needed to strengthen the program and ensure access to equitable, affordable, client-centered, and quality family planning services for all clients, especially low-income clients.
In addition, the Administration pledged to direct $50 million in supplemental funding to the Title X Family Planning Program through the American Recovery Plan, in addition to the $340 million proposed for the Title X program in the President’s discretionary budget request.
Expand Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months, ensuring that more new mothers can retain health coverage and stay healthy.
Propose, as part of the President’s FY 2022 discretionary budget request, $200 million to reduce maternal mortality rates and end race-based disparities, and as part of the American Families Plan, an investment of $3.3 billion to continue to address the maternal health crisis in the United States, which has a particularly significant impact on Black and Native American women, by growing and diversifying the perinatal workforce, improving data collection to understand better the causes of maternal death and complications of childbirth, and investing in community-based organizations.
Finally, the Biden-Harris Administration promised, “to commit to supporting women in the global health workforce and affirm U.S. support of the Gender Equal Healthcare Workforce Initiative and its pillars, which aims to minimize and address inequities and inequalities female health workers face globally.”