US Human Rights Network Blog
USHRN Statement on Women and girls of African Descent at the 63rd Commission on the Status of WomenMar 14, 2019
USHRN Presentation before CSW63 on Women and Girls of African Descent by Dr. Yolande Tomlinson
The US human rights network thanks the Commission on the Status of women (CSW) for the opportunity to address the 63rd session on the thematic area of social justice systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.
We are founded and led by feminists of color and we comprise a network of approximately 300 organization and thousands of individuals. We work to strengthen human rights movement and culture within the United States and we are led by people who are most directly impacted by human rights violations and as such work to secure dignity and justice for all.
We appreciate the framing of this session on African descendant women and girls within the lens of intersectionality. And I would also like to point out a key area of intersectionality is worth noting for the following statement:
The power of intersectionality is not only recognizing the multiple and overlapping oppressions that black women and girls suffer as a function of race, gender, sexuality and class, but the power of and critical element of it is also recognizing that those people who are directly affected by these multiple overlapping oppressions must also be the leaders and the orchestrators of the solutions to those human rights violations.
And so with due respect to my colleague who initially reference the statement of the US Human Rights Network, the US Human Rights Network and black women and girls will speak for ourselves.
In January, 2016 The United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African descent stated that the colonial history, the legacy of enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism, and racial inequality in the United States remains a serious challenge as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent.
Moreover, black women and girls experience unique forms of discrimination under these systems and practices. Taken from our homelands, we were subjected to both forced manual labor and forced sexual and reproductive labor, essentially to birth the next generation of enslaved people.
The implication of this nexus of labor and its legacy and current experiences of gender-based oppression must be acknowledged and effectively accounted for in any effort to remedy these violations of black women, girls and femmes, the human rights violations by the United States.
These legacies continue to plague black women and girls in areas of mass incarceration, in the foster care system, in education, in meaningful and well-paying work, healthcare and reproductive care, violence at home, work and in the public spaces and in accessing relevant and sustainable social services.
Women and girls in the area of criminal punishment
The number of incarcerated women and girls in the US, while we comprise only 13% of the population, we comprise over 30% of incarcerated people. Black children are also nine times more likely than other children to have a parent who is imprisoned.
In the area of violence against women
There's a lack of data on police violence, there's also a gap in the data on sexual assault on women in general, and we know that black women's bodies are more vulnerable spaces in the home, in schools and in public places.
In the area of health
Depression among African American women is approximately 50% higher than among Caucasian women. Mental health problems are higher than average in black women because of psychological factors.
Black children make up more than 24% of foster care population but comprise only 14% of the US child population.
According to the 2014 US census data, black families make up 27% of those living under the poverty line while only constituting 11% of the US population. Of the 23% of black families that live below the poverty line, 46% are in households headed by single mothers.
We know these facts are not a reason to say more mothers should be married, but are a consequence of our intersecting experience of progression.
Black women are also more than three times likely to die during childbirth than white women according to the Center for Disease Control.
In conclusion, the physical, social, economic, political, cultural, environmental and sexual violations faced by Afrodescendants in the United States are “symptoms” of the U.S.’ unwillingness to address the root causes of these issues – the history of enslavement and its interconnection with other systems such as patriarchy and capitalism. This interconnection of oppressive systems creates unique experiences of discrimination for afrodescendant women, girls, and trans and gender non-conforming people’s that warrant special and swift solutions led by those most directly impacted.
The US Human Rights Network calls on the Commission to support and reiterate in its final report of the 63rd session the statement by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in its press release on March 21, 2016, which states – “The adoption of special measures is essential to reduce the disparities in the exercise of human rights by Afro-descendent persons and communities. It is also paramount that States adopt policies to reflect the needs of Afro-descendent women and girls and facilitate spaces where they can participate in the design of legislation, programs, and services pertinent to their lives and realities.”
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