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Donald Trump addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress on February 28, 2017.
Donald Trump has taken an approach to the presidency that might generously be called contrarian. His Secretary of Energy once proposed dismantling the Department of Energy after forgetting it even existed. The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency has called himself a “leading advocate” against the very agency he runs. The woman in charge of U.S. public schools hates public schools.
So it comes as little surprise that the members of the president’s delegation to the United Nations’ annual summit on women are opposed to the U.N. as a whole and the fundamental rights of women in particular. On Monday, the State Department revealed the list of people who will represent the U.S. at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) this week and next. They include a senior executive from a known hate group and a leader at an organization that works against grants to address violence against women.
One delegate, Lisa Correnti, is an executive vice president at the Center for Family & Human Rights (C-FAM), which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled a hate group since 2014. C-FAM was explicitly formed in the ‘90s to push back against the rights of women in U.N. resolutions and policies. One of C-FAM’s core missions is to advance laws that restrict the rights and protections of LGBTQ people; its president recently called contraception and gay rights “devilish gospel.” The organization signed on in favor of Russia’s anti-gay laws, which have led to arrests, prosecution, and physical assaults from government agents for gay Russians.
The Heritage Foundation will send to the CSW Grace Melton, the organization’s associate for U.N. social issues and the author behind such riveting texts as “In Bed with Radical Feminists: The U.N.’s Misguided Women’s Agenda.” Her employer is one of the most high-profile anti-LGBTQ organizations in the country. The foundation likes to argue that laws preventing any kind of discrimination—in schools, housing, and employment, for instance—against LGBTQ people grant them “special privileges” and are contrary to the values of the United States. Heritage takes a special interest in advocating against protections for transgender people and insurance coverage for contraception. In advocating for the repeal of the Violence Against Women Act, the Heritage Foundation has called grants that fund the prevention of and response to violence against women “a misuse of federal resources and a distraction from concerns that truly are the province of federal government,” claiming that the act is “watering down services” by including funds for incarcerated survivors of abuse. When Trump proposed cutting all 25 federal grant programs managed by the Office on Violence Against Women, it was under the advice of the Heritage Foundation.
These are the people that the U.S. has sent to represent and advocate for the country’s views on women’s rights around the world: Women who fight tirelessly against reproductive rights, the human-rights commitments of the U.N., and the rights of women and other LGBTQ people to exist safe from violence and discrimination. As the Guardian pointed out earlier this week, these anti-woman positions, in addition to Trump’s expansion of the global gag rule, will mean the U.S. will side with representatives from countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, and Sudan in their efforts to curb women’s rights at the CSW. These include countries in Trump’s Islamophobic travel ban—countries Trump and other conservatives have singled out as abusers of women while cutting funding to prevent abuse of women in the U.S.
This isn’t an unusual step for a Republican president to take. George W. Bush’s administration was known for sending advocates against gender equality and reproductive rights to U.N. summits. In 2002, delegates to the U.N. Special Session on Children attempted to stop a proposed plan for children’s health and rights because there was a part about reproductive health, and worked to stop a proposal to support young female survivors of war crimes because they didn’t want those girls to have funding for or education about contraception or abortion.
One of Bush’s delegates to the 2003 CSW was Janice Shaw Crouse, who currently heads up her own SPLC-certified hate group, the World Congress of Families IX. This organization supports the Ugandan law that imprisons LGBTQ people; it also workshops policies with its “dear colleagues” of the Russian Orthodox Church, which recently helped decriminalize domestic violence in Russia. She calls gay-rights supporters “extremists who want to shut down religious freedom and redefine marriage and family” and works to advance the view that “the best place for sexual activity is between a husband and wife … by God’s design.” Crouse is on the advisory board of the Coalition for Divorce Reform, which proposes legislation to make it harder to get divorced.
In 2005, Bush’s CSW delegation joined the most anti-woman countries in the world by going on the record opposing “any new international human rights,” promoting abstinence-only sex education as the primary means of global HIV/AIDS prevention, and declaring that the term reproductive rights does not include abortion. The delegation was led by Ellen Sauerbrey, a Trump supporter who said, upon her selection to the CSW delegation, that women are risk-averse “by nature.” The main goal of that year’s commission, as it happens, was to reaffirm the platform of the 1995 Beijing conference, where Hillary Clinton gave her famous “women’s rights are human rights” speech. Sauerbrey fought against the part of the platform that declared the “right of all women to control all aspects of their health, in particular their own fertility,” accusing NGOs of attempting to “hijack” the issue of women’s health by affirming in the platform that abortion should be safe where it is legal.
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Ivanka Trump at a luncheon for International Women’s Day on March 8, 2017.