On Friday President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would severely curtail admissions to the US for most refugees and immigrants from certain countries viewed as supporting terrorism, including Iraq that is a key US ally in the war against ISIS. According to the order, the US “should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women).”
It is truly astonishing to see gender-based violence used as a pretext for keeping refugees who are fleeing persecution out of the US. The statement is particularly hypocritical coming from an administration viewed by many Americans as misogynist and bent on rolling back women’s rights.
Women’s safety is also under attack in Russia where the Parliament just voted 380-3 to decriminalize domestic violence in cases where the perpetrator does not cause “substantial bodily harm” and does not attack the victim more than once a year. Given the Trump administration’s apparent close ties to Russia combined with disregard for women’s rights, we can no longer expect our President to take a stand against the abuse of women and girls in Russia and around the world.
On the same day Trump issued this executive order, Vice President Pence spoke at a pro-life march in Washington, DC, the first VP in US history to address this march that has taken place annually since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973. One of the first things Trump did after taking the oath of office, while surrounded by only white men, was to sign an executive order banning foreign nongovernmental organizations working in health care programs with US funding from counseling clients about abortion or advocating for laws that allow abortion rights.
The conservative agenda being pushed by the Trump administration is starting to resemble the very extremist groups that it is criticizing more and more each day.
Advocates against gender-based violence were alarmed when the Trump transition team requested from the US Department of State a list of existing programs and activities intended to promote gender equality. People are concerned that the administration will cut not just foreign programs supporting gender equality, but domestic programs aimed at preventing violence against women. Passed in 1994, the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) funds programs at the state and local levels aimed at preventing domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and protecting victims of such abuses.
This order will also prevent women and girls fleeing gender-based violence and persecution from gaining protection in the United States.
The executive action is clearly aimed at predominantly Muslim countries, and the language regarding violence against women demonized entire populations, ignoring the reality that gender based violence is a problem in the US and globally.
More than three million people marched throughout the US and in cities around the world on Trump’s first day in office in a show of support for the dignity and rights of women, and to counter the negative rhetoric of Trump during the campaign. To now see this administration co-opt the messaging of the Women’s March into its draconian new policy is truly an example of the pot calling the kettle black.
Sherizaan Minwalla is an immigration and human rights lawyer specializing in gender-based violence. She has spent eight years living in Iraq and working with NGOs on these issues. She is the Practitioner-in-Residence at the International Human Rights Law Clinic at the Washington College of Law