The Politics of Poverty

Ideas and analysis from Oxfam America's policy experts

The Vanishing: Women’s rights and LGBTI rights under the Trump administration

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Thousands march in Washington, DC at the 2017 Women's March. (Photo: Mark Dixon / Wikimedia Commons)

Oxfam analyzes the annual human rights report and it’s grim.

How bad is it?

We wanted to know how bad it is.

Starting in February 2018, media reports started emerging that there were orders from inside the US State Department to reduce reporting on women’s rights and the challenges facing LGBTI people. At issue is the annual human rights report that documents progress (or not) in countries around the world. More than 195 countries are included.

When the reports came, it turned out to be true. Women’s rights were cut from many reports. Whole sections were deleted, re-named and radically reoriented.

But no one could say exactly what had happened. So we decided to do the hard work of analyzing the reports. We looked at the latest 2017 reports – the first full year under the Trump administration and compared them to the previous two reports. We did this for more than 190 country reports.

Working with colleagues at the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, here’s what we found:

  • Reporting on women’s rights and issues outside the United States is down 32 percent under President Trump.
  • Reporting on LGBTI rights and issues abroad is down 21 percent under President Trump.

We also found that reporting on women’s rights was reduced more in countries where gender inequality is higher – in other words, where the problem of violations of women’s rights is worse, the State Department cut back on reporting.

Reporting on women’s rights was also reduced more in countries that send more asylum applicants. In other words, where desperate people try to flee, the State Department cut back on reporting.

So – our analysis confirms what we feared. Under President Trump, the State Department is failing to document attacks on women’s rights and LGBTI rights around the world. This is especially true where the US should be standing up most bravely on behalf of vulnerable people.

Now that the facts are clear, there is a growing effort among advocates and in Congress to restore women’s rights and LGBTI rights to their proper place in the US human rights agenda. Stay tuned for actions you can take.

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