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Women’s Rights

Suraj Patel
May 21, 2018 · 6 min read
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Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

Now is a powerful time — a tipping point — in the fight for women’s rights. From the incredible turnouts at both the 2017 and 2018 Women’s Marches, to the wave of #MeToo and #TimesUp stories, our country and the world are awakened to the critical necessity to listen to women, believe women, support women, and to hold each other accountable for our words and actions.

Unfortunately, the catalyst for this positive change also embodies our culture’s fraught past and imperfect present when it comes to sexism and gender-based discrimination. Trump’s election no doubt emboldened women to speak up about our visions for a more just and equal future, even as his administration attempts to set us back with reckless attacks against trans women and all women’s right to reproductive care. We urgently need fighters who will amplify and support the voices of all women against Trump’s attack on their rights.

This remarkable moment in gender equity discourse, and the wide expanse of its reach, must be leveraged as an opportunity to move the needle further towards justice, fairness, and equality. Where we go next depends on our ability to build on this movement, stand our ground through inevitable backlash, and to focus on solutions. This isn’t just about raising our boys to be better men tomorrow — this is about men and women working together today to bring real progressive change to the systems that currently leave women at a disadvantage.

Here’s are a few of the things I’m fighting for —

True equality stems from financial independence. Women in America are still earning only 79 cents for every dollar a man earns. And when we consider the statistics for women of color, the outcomes are worse. In 2016, Public Advocate Letitia James released an analysis of the gender wage gap in New York City’s workforce, which highlights even larger disparities — black or African American women in NYC are earning only 55 cents for every dollar a white man earns, while hispanic or latina women are earning only 46 cents, far less than the national average.

This persistent inequity is a disgrace, and completely unacceptable. We must bring transparency to salaries by requiring disclosure and reporting of pay, limit requirements for job applicants to provide salary history information, and ensure that employers provide a salary range to applicants in job announcements and advertisements.

Another major issue driving our pay gap is the lack of access to boardrooms. Even now, at a time when earnings of Fortune 500 CEOs are at an all-time high, women only account for 5% of the list. Access to capital is also preventing women from reaching their economic potential. In 2017, a dismal 2% of venture capital dollars went to female-founded companies. This staggering gap in financing is preventable and we must focus on solutions. We must make a commitment to invest in companies with women and minority leadership in order to provide fair access to economic opportunity for all, and to drive further economic growth.

Women all across America, not just in select states, should have full control over what happens to their bodies. The fundamental right to reproductive care has become a left-right battleground, with women losing out every time. This must end.

Trump has already signed a resolution slashing Title X protections, a family planning program that prohibits states from discriminating against women’s health care providers and ensures millions of low-income Americans have affordable access to reproductive health services, such as cervical and breast cancer screenings, contraception, and regular preventative care. Trump’s plan to institute a “gag-order” on those who provide, discuss, or refer patients to safe and legal abortion services would take us another step backwards by preventing family planning centers like Planned Parenthood from securing critical Title X funding to serve those who depend on their care — especially women of color.

I will fight tooth and nail to protect Title X and expand, not cut, funding to centers like Planned Parenthood. We also need to establish permanent legal mechanisms that prevent any president from going after Title X. A woman’s right to choose should not be compromised by limited access to safe and legal abortion services or counseling to help them make an informed decision.

Every person should have the resources and agency to make healthy decisions about their own individual bodies, sexuality, and reproduction. Lawmakers must support, not deny, this right.

Access to flexible scheduling, paid family leave, and high-quality child care remains a major hurdle for women and for families across America. The United States is the largest developed country that does not guarantee paid leave to workers, forcing new parents with limited resources to return to work just days after the birth of their children. Once parents return to the workplace, they have few affordable childcare options and often struggle to balance working schedules with time spent with their children.

This lack of workplace support for new parents disproportionately disadvantages women, who may be forced to compromise or suspend their careers in order to care for their children. Lower-income women with few options for childcare are especially burdened by this, which further widens existing wage disparities. Offering federal subsidies and tax breaks for workplaces that provide flexible scheduling options, paid family leave, and childcare for their employees will begin to correct the systemic injustices driving the wage gap.

Rising costs put childcare out of reach for millions, and it’s time for every American to have access to care and Pre-K regardless of their income. With the expansion of New York’s child care tax credit for middle-class families, I believe we can and should push for New York City to become a model for comprehensive national pre-K programs that support our families, rather than burden them with additional financial and emotional stress.

Domestic violence and rape is an epidemic plaguing our nation. Nearly 3 in every 10 women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by a partner. Nearly 1 in 4 women have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

We must close the “boyfriend loophole,” which allows domestic abusers to obtain firearms, despite criminal convictions or restraining orders against them just because they did not marry the victim. The presence of a firearm in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%. Closing the boyfriend loophole is long overdue and should be a key, bipartisan priority.

We must expand funding for the Legal Services Corporation to ensure survivors have access to an attorney in civil and criminal proceedings. We must also expand funding to end the rape kit backlog. Rape Kit backlogs delay and even prevent criminal investigations from occurring.

Finally, we must end the toxic culture of rape, violence, and sexual abuse in this country. We must fund a public awareness campaign to educate individuals from early childhood to college campuses, to workplaces to end this toxic culture.

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) must be ratified in order to ensure that true equity, including gender pay parity, is protected by law. Guaranteeing that all civil and constitutional rights are fully extended to every American regardless of biological sex or gender identity will empower women with strong legal weapons to fight back on unequal pay, workplace harassment, and reproductive rights

94% of Americans say they would absolutely support an amendment to the constitution that guarantees equal rights for all individuals regardless of their sex. And support is nonpartisan — Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all support this amendment at rates higher than 90%. Perhaps more surprisingly, is that 80% of respondents to the same survey mistakenly believe that this guarantee against discrimination is already in place.

Despite this broad-based support, the ERA, first introduced in 1932, requires legislative approval from three-fourths of all states (38 out of 50), but has languished in Congress with only partial support since it first passed in 1972. In 2017, Nevada became the 36th state to sign on board. Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia are still holding out. I’m committed to being a part of the team that finally carries the ERA across the finish line by securing support from just two additional states.

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