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A Joint Statement Between the North American MenEngage Network (NAMEN) and Equimundo

The United States was once a leader on supporting global efforts to end violence against women and promote women’s rights. But under President Trump, the US government is now far from that; the decision to withdraw the country from the Human Rights Council is just one example.

The United States, under previous administrations, has been a global supporter of advancing human rights, including efforts to respond to and eliminate violence against women domestically and internationally. However, on June 20, 2018, the Trump administration withdrew the United States (US) from the Human Rights Council (HRC), an intergovernmental body within the United Nations (UN) that holds the responsibility to promote and protect human rights globally and to address human rights violations, including violence against women.

The Trump administration’s decision puts the US on a list of countries that do not take human rights seriously and do not take women’s, children’s, or immigrants’ rights seriously. The North American MenEngage Network (NAMEN) and Equimundo express grave concerns and deep disagreement with this decision, which we believe lands the US firmly on the wrong side of history and justice. By withdrawing itself from any involvement or engagement in collaborative diplomacy, the US is removing itself from a position of both being held accountable and holding other states accountable for the advancement of human rights and the global effort to prevent all forms of gender-based violence.

Representatives of NAMEN and Equimundo attended the Human Rights Council session in June along with a number of MenEngage Alliance members – from more than 15 countries, across 5 continents – at which the US withdrew from the HRC. We were there because last year, the Human Rights Council did something historic: it affirmed that men and boys must be engaged as key actors to prevent violence against women. It affirmed that this work must be done in ways that challenge harmful ideas about what it means to be a man and must be applied within a human rights and feminist framework.

This HRC Resolution (HRC 35-10) says we need to get serious about shifting the cultures of manhood – in policy and practice – that too often drive men’s violence against women. It asserts that member states have a responsibility to support and promote men’s engagement in these efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of gender-based violence.

Tellingly, the US was not one of the 85 member states to co-sponsor that resolution. The US refused to confirm that men are the majority of those who carry out violence against women, and therefore we must engage men to end it. Now, by withdrawing, the US is going even further by pulling ourselves out of this UN body and refusing to participate in advancing the international community’s human rights agenda more broadly. The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw came one day after the opening statement and global update of human rights concerns by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a statement which soundly (and in our view, rightly) criticized the US for the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their families – including those seeking asylum (while also recently removing domestic violence as cause to seek it) – at the US’s southern border as a response to so-called and unsubstantiated immigration “crisis” into the US.

We call on the Trump administration to reverse its decision, returning to the Human Rights Council and to the global conversation about expanding human rights. We call on the government and leadership of the United States to re-commit to prioritizing the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality in its domestic and foreign policy.

As the United States, we must show what we wish to stand for; we must show that we believe we can become a place where women, children, immigrants, and all people feel safe – a place where their human rights are protected.

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