Women’s Rights and the Biden-Harris Administration

Gender equality is more than a human right; it promotes peaceful societies, full human potential and economic development. Women and girls represent half the world’s population and are therefore also half its potential. They should be able to live their lives free of oppression and discrimination, enjoy equal opportunities in business, politics and the economy, and have access to quality education and health care.

Through most of history, however, men and women did not have equal rights, because they were viewed as less important or intelligent than males, and some myths and religions presented them as evil. Women had to fight hard for their basic human rights and freedoms. Despite this, many of them made great achievements. Queen Elizabeth ruled England for 45 years, Catherine the Great was empress of Russia in the 1700s, and thousands of women joined the Iranian revolution of 1979, even though it led to the deaths of many of them.

Nevertheless, a lot of work remains to be done to achieve gender equality around the world. More than 2.4 billion women worldwide still are not paid equally for their work, and women in 178 countries face legal barriers to employment. In addition, poor reproductive health leads to unintended pregnancies and a high risk of death during childbirth and pregnancy for women in developing countries. Unmet needs for family planning services are widespread and misogynistic attitudes are still common.

The Biden-Harris Administration strongly believes that empowering women is essential to every person’s economic security, safety and well-being. To this end, the Administration has revoked the Global Gag Rule, restored funding to UNFPA and launched a whole-of-government effort to address global challenges like violence against women, harmful patriarchal traditions such as child marriage and female genital mutilation, and preventable maternal deaths.

While some countries have made progress in achieving women’s rights, others have regressed. In a democracy, equality for women is not just a matter of human rights; it is a sign of a healthy society. Democracies with functioning checks and balances – including independent courts, media freedom and active political participation – tend to have more robust protections for the rights of all citizens, and are less likely to reduce women’s rights.

Americans who say the country has not yet gone far enough in giving women equal rights with men cite sexual harassment and the fact that people have different expectations for men and women as major obstacles to gender equality. In addition, 53% cite lack of female leadership and the fact that it takes longer for women to get promoted in their workplaces as significant obstacles to equality. Among these same Americans, three-quarters say that they believe it is very or somewhat important for women to have equal rights with men in society. Those with higher levels of educational attainment are more likely than those with lower levels to say that it is very or somewhat important for women to be treated equally with men.