In September 2023, Equality Now, with the ERA Coalition, Unchained at Last, the US End FGM/C Network, and the Alliance for Universal Digital Rights (AUDRi), presented a submission ahead of the 139th session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which took place between October 9 and November 3, 2023.
From October 14 through 17, when the United States was under review, representatives from Equality Now and the ERA Coalition were present in Geneva to witness a United States delegate respond to the Committee regarding the progress the US has made in addressing the ongoing human rights violations as outlawed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the US has ratified.
Shortly after the session concluded, The Committee issued its recommendations to the United States and adopted several of our concluding observations. As we aim to continue to reinforce mechanisms that expose human rights violations at the international level, this process has been a major achievement in our advocacy. We hope that other organizations will take part in sharing the news.
What We Have to Say about The Committee’s Recommendations
Equality Now wholeheartedly welcomes the strong recommendations made by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (the UN Committee) on the United States’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the US ratified and committed to implementing domestically in 1992.
Following its dialogue with US government representatives in Geneva, the UN Committee adopted, among others, the proposed recommendations submitted by Equality Now in collaboration with our partners the ERA Coalition, the U.S. End FGM/C Network, Unchained at Last, and the Alliance for Universal Digital Rights (AUDRi), that the United States“guarantee protections against sex and gender-based discrimination in its Constitution,” including through incorporation of the Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA”), and that the US should ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the most comprehensive international treaty on women’s rights. ERA advocates have fought for constitutional equality on the basis of sex for over 100 years, and it will have the power to bring transformative changes to the lives of women, girls, and LGBTQ+ individuals in the US, especially with the recent rollback of hard-fought reproductive rights. In this context, the UN Committee’s recognition and recommendation of the ERA and ratification of CEDAW is a significant step towards holding the United States accountable to its commitments to ensure fundamental human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination.
We also welcome the UN Committee’s acceptance of our proposed recommendations on eradicating harmful practices in the US, specifically female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. The UN Committee noted with concern that implementation of the federal Stop FGM Act has been slow and that some US states have not enacted specific laws against FGM. The Committee called on the US to “intensify its efforts to prevent, combat and eradicate all forms of violence against women and girls,” including by “encouraging states to pass legislation that prohibits and criminalizes all forms of FGM and to effectively implement the Stop FGM Act” at the federal level. The UN Committee also echoed our concern that the vast majority of US states continue to legally permit child marriage,* and called on the US “to adopt measures at all levels to prohibit marriage below the age of 18 years”
Equality Now and our partners thank the UN Committee for engaging with us and other civil society organizations to incorporate and accept the evidence, information, and recommendations on human rights issues that impact the everyday lives of people in the US, including survivors of FGM, child marriage and other forms of gender-based violence and discrimination.
The Time to Act is Now!
We urge the United States to immediately take concrete and positive measures to implement the UN’s recommendations by recognizing the ERA as the 28th amendment to the US Constitution and enacting, strengthening, and implementing the laws and policies necessary to protect the human rights of women and girls, in all their diversity, at local, state and national level.
*At the time of the submission it was 41 states. Since then Michigan passed a law prohibiting child marriage without exception, so now there are 40 states that still allow for marriage under the age of 18.