Edited Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 3:45 p.m. PT to reflect the 48-hour extension of the public comment period.
Last week, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) released their draft of a new USAID Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy. This policy is slated to replace the Obama Administration’s USAID Gender Equality and Female Empowerment policy launched in 2012, which was “designed to enhance women’s empowerment and reduce gender gaps.”
Unfortunately, the Trump administration‘s revised policy is a severe and harmful regression from the previous policy on a number of issues, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, including the narrowing and politicization of reproductive health content.
- The draft policy provides a narrow and incomplete perspective on reproductive health, diminishing it to only focus on maternal health and family planning.
- The policy ignores that comprehensive reproductive health access is necessary to achieve equality and empowerment.
- The policy unnecessarily politicizes sexual and reproductive health, including by defining the lifespan as beginning “before birth”, a concept for which there is significant variation across societies, cultures, and religious beliefs and has no basis in international human rights law and agreements
- The policy only promotes fertility awareness methods, rather than all modern contraceptive methods that must be available for individuals to have free and informed choice over family planning decisions;
- The policy primarily addresses fertility and family planning discussions as occurring between spouses at the exclusion of people who want access to family planning and reproductive health care outside of marriage.
- The policy should focus on evidence-based content to advance sexual and reproductive health by addressing the global unmet need for contraception, access to the full range of modern contraceptive methods, and providing comprehensive sexuality education and reproductive health access to young people to help them determine their own health and life outcomes.
“The proposed policy’s understanding of reproductive health as merely maternal health and family planning, focused on natural family planning for married couples, is the Trump administration’s latest attempt to promote an agenda that limits who and how individuals can exercise their reproductive rights,” said Rebecca Dennis, senior legislative policy analyst at sexual and reproductive rights nonprofit PAI.
She continued: “This politicization of the policy can further be seen in the removal of LGBTI inclusive language, reinforcement of gender-binary language, reframing of issues like gender-based violence and human rights, and its disproportionate touting of Trump era initiatives such as the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative.
An update of the USAID Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy is a prime opportunity to bolster the existing policy with new data, update it with best practices, and align it with new strategies and pieces of legislation.
Unfortunately, the current draft of the policy is out of touch with current global best practices, and contains inaccurate and problematic elements that may stall or even reverse progress towards gender equality globally. Moreover, it is possibly harmful to program beneficiaries and detrimental to the reputation of the agency and effective U.S. diplomatic engagement.
“Far from advancing gender equality, USAID’s draft Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment policy sets these issues back nearly a decade or more,” Dennis told Ms.
USAID has opened up an extremely brief comment period on the policy, requiring that all comments be submitted by Thursday, August 27. Comments can be submitted at this link.
Although USAID encourages comments on anything of importance in the draft policy, they appreciate your attention to the points noted below:
- Are there major gaps or important material that has been omitted? Please be as specific as you can.
- Are there points where more up-to-date information may be available?
- Are there areas where clarification is needed on policy positions or terminology? Please provide a clear rationale for your position and a recommendation.
Note: It is also recommended you email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org to be sure they are received.
Below is a sample email text you can use:
Dear USAID Gender Policy reviewer,
____ submitted the below comments at this link: https://www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/gender-equality-and-womens-empowerment/2020-policy-draft
However, upon submitting (by pressing “save”), we received no confirmation or indication those comments were submitted; it simply took us back to the original request for comment page. To ensure that these comments are submitted, I am also emailing them to you here.
Please confirm receipt.