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What Trump’s win might mean for women across the world

His suppression and rhetoric against women is not and will not be limited just domestically – it has the potential to extend globally. 

Tharanga Yakupitiyage
12 November 2016
Students protest, San Francisco. Jeff Chiu/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.

Students protest, San Francisco. Jeff Chiu/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.In a shocking and historic upset, businessman Donald Trump will become the forty-fifth president of the United States, leaving many unsure of the future of essential human rights around the world – particularly women’s rights and gender equality.

In his victory speech, president-elect Trump stressed the need to move forward by binding “the wounds of division” and to come together as “one united people.”

“I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be the president for all Americans, and this is so important to me,” he continued. 

But which Americans?

Women’s rights have been a particularly divisive issue during the campaign as the newly elected president has publicly demeaned, degraded and insulted women in his path to the White House. 

Following the first Republican debate, Trump indirectly called Fox News host Megyn Kelly a “bimbo” after she challenged him about his history of sexist remarks.

Trump even reduced rival Carly Fiorina to her looks, saying no one would vote for the businesswoman because of her face. “Would anyone vote for that?” he said to a Rolling Stone reporter.

The revelation of the scale of Trump’s objectification of women, which goes beyond just this presidential campaign, peaked when leaked footage showed him boasting of sexual assault. Though Trump downplayed his remarks as “locker room talk,” it has since gone beyond words as more than a dozen women have come forward to accuse Trump of sexual assault dating back to the 1980s.

The president-elect was already undergoing a federal lawsuit after a woman accused him of rape two decades ago when she was 13 years old. However, in early November, the charges were dropped following the cancellation of a press conference with “Jane Doe” who received threats and was in “terrible fear.”

Trump has explicitly denied all of these women’s allegations. While speaking in Gettsyburg, where Abraham Lincoln called for human equality 150 years before, the president-elect promised to get revenge against his accusers.

“The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over,” he told his supporters.  

But it is not just Trump. The rhetoric used throughout his campaign has raised the curtain on, if not emboldened, the issue of misogyny within the country.

After Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight found that Hillary Clinton would have a landslide victory if only women voted, Trump supporters took to social media to call for a repeal of the US Constitution’s Nineteenth Amendment which established women’s right to vote.

In another case, a Pennsylvania man witnessed a group of men make nonconsensual and inappropriate advances towards a woman after yelling “grab them by the p----.“

This seemingly growing attitude towards women also runs alongside Trump’s disparaging remarks towards people of colour.

From proposing to ban all Muslims to describing Mexicans as “rapists,” Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric has already created a wave of hate crimes in the aftermath of the election.

Several Muslim women have reported harassment and assault by Trump supporters, including one at the University of Louisiana who was allegedly beaten and had her hijab ripped off by two men. One of the attackers was said to have been wearing a hat with “Trump” written on it.

Another woman, who was perceived to be Mexican, posted her interaction with an “older white man” who told her “I can’t wait until Trump asks us to rape your people and send you back over the biggest damn wall we’re going to build.”

“I’ve never been terrified of being a woman and a minority until today,” Rhio Oracion wrote after describing the harassment.

This environment threatens to further encourage violence and disrespect towards women, especially women of coluor.

It will also allow for the dismantling of existing rights, including to health care.

Already, the newly elected president plans to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides sexual and reproductive health care and education to nearly five million women and men each year, and is an especially important health resource for low-income women of colour and immigrant women.

In addition to his proposal to outlaw abortion in most cases (to which the president-elect said women should also receive “some form of punishment” for seeking one), Trump has also vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a source of HIV treatment and free birth control for many.

In response to many of Trump’s proposed policies, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said they were “un-American” and “unlawful”, and threatened “full firepower” if policies that encroach on people’s freedoms and rights are enacted.

This suppression and rhetoric against women is not and will not be limited just domestically – it has the potential to extend globally.

The US continues to provide global leadership on many global development and human rights issues, having helped found the United Nations and acting as a permanent member of the Security Council.

But if the leader of the free world does not respect women’s rights domestically, how can he do so internationally? Instead, the election of Trump may reinforce the belief that violence and discrimination against women is acceptable and that women’s rights are not important.  

“Every vote for [Trump] threatened women’s control of their bodies and signaled the mainstreaming of the view that it’s ok to grab us ‘by the p----,’” said the United Kingdom’s Women’s Equality Party (WEP) in a statement, adding that they were “devastated” to see the US is no longer focused on the goal of gender equality. 

“Until [Trump] understands the vital importance of women’s equality, he threatens social and economic advance that is vital to global development,” they continued.

There are also concerns that a Trump administration may change or cut assistance to women around the world.

The US, which continues to be the largest foreign aid donor, is a major contributor in the field of global reproductive health.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is the world’s largest family planning bilateral donor, helping countries and its people meet family planning and reproductive health needs. The agency is currently working towards the Family Planning 2020’s goal to provide access to family planning information, contraceptives and services by 2020 to an additional 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries.

Though women and girls are disproportionately affected by crises and are vulnerable to sexual violence and poverty, the president-elect’s proposed actions to limit women’s health domestically causes concern for the future of international aid.

The implications of a Trump presidency are still uncertain for global women’s rights, but words and actions used throughout his presidential campaign reflects a worrying trend for the safety and security of women worldwide.  

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