Today we celebrate International Women’s Day, exactly 100 years after it was first established. Women have made incredible strides in that time — both in the United States and around the globe. We cheer these advancements and thank the feminist activists whose dedication and fearlessness made them possible. At the same time, we are under no illusion about the road ahead, and we take this occasion to reaffirm our pledge that we will win full equality for all women.
The challenges before us are extraordinary. Many countries and cultures still view and treat women as second-class citizens. Human rights violations against women and girls take place in virtually every society. The global business of sex trafficking exploits millions of girls and women each year. In some parts of the world, rape is commonly used as a weapon of war. Even at one of the most triumphant moments in recent history — the successful uprising in Egypt — a woman reporter was targeted by a gang of men for a brutal sexual assault.
Here at home, we are no strangers to violence and injustice fueled by misogyny. Every two minutes in the U.S., someone, most likely a girl or woman, is sexually assaulted. Women continue to be paid less than men. They face discrimination at work and school. They are marginalized and objectified in the media. And now we face an all-out war on women’s reproductive rights and their ability to access health care.
If conservatives are successful in their efforts, countless women will lose access to a wide range of services at family planning clinics, including mammograms, pap smears, screening for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, as well as contraception. Hospital emergency rooms will be allowed to let a pregnant woman die rather than perform a life-saving abortion. Public funding for abortion care will be permanently outlawed, and tax penalties will be imposed on companies and employees whose insurance covers abortion. The House of Representatives also voted to decimate funding for essential programs like prenatal care, women’s and children’s nutritional assistance, job training and college tuition assistance.
Sadly, the “war on women” isn’t restricted to U.S. women. The House is poised to deliver a huge blow to the global women’s health community by cutting international family planning assistance. This strike would include the elimination of all U.S. funds designated for UNFPA, the international development agency that works to reduce poverty and promote women’s reproductive health in underserved areas around the world.
NOW calls on Congress and President Obama to vigorously defend the health and dignity of women everywhere. On International Women’s Day, NOW also reiterates its call for the long-overdue U.S. ratification of CEDAW (the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) — the most complete international agreement on basic human rights for women. Our message is simple: The individual atrocities and indignities committed against women every day will not stop until the larger war against our sex is ended and women’s full equality is guaranteed.