New Oxfam analysis finds significant omissions in State Department human rights reports
A new joint analysis released today from Oxfam America and The Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver found that reporting on women’s rights and issues in the State Department annual Country Reports is down 32% under President Trump’s Administration, while reporting on LGBTI rights and issues abroad is down 21%. Alarmingly, countries of origin for asylum seekers and countries with greater gender inequalities saw their reporting decline at even higher rates of around 50%.
These reports are important inputs into US policy and help support human rights defenders at home and abroad. They are also a critically important trove of systematic data on human rights practices available to advocates, scholars, asylum seekers, and multinational firms.
“Our findings signal one thing: under the Trump Administration women’s and LGBTI rights reporting worldwide is deteriorating, particularly in the places with the worst gender inequality and where asylum seekers originate,” said Abby Maxman, President of Oxfam America. “The numbers only tell a part of the story. Changes in tone, language, and content suggest the Trump Administration is shaping these reports to diminish the profile and importance of women’s rights and LGBTI people, which could have disastrous impacts on the United States’ capacity to defend human rights.”
Under the Trump administration, the State Department has cut back on discussing women’s rights and issues for countries that send the most asylum seekers. Additionally, the worse a country scored on the Gender Inequality Index the bigger the decrease in reporting from 2016 to 2017. For example, Afghanistan saw a decrease of 56% in the number of mentions of women from 2016 – 2017. El Salvador saw a decrease in references to women of 50%, and Yemen saw a decrease of 52%.
Despite reasoning provided by the State Department, these decreases are not just about shorter, more concise reports. Our research found that the 2017 reports are not statistically significantly shorter than 2016 reports. Nor do the reports reflect conditions improving much on the ground. Reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch suggest that while women’s and LGBTI rights are improving for some in particular contexts, they are deteriorating in others.
“Our research confirms a broad, distressing trend: the Trump administration is writing women and LGBTI rights and issues out of US policy documents, undermining decades of US leadership on these issues and threatening to imperil women and LGBTI communities across the world,” said Dr. Marie Berry, Assistant Professor at the Joseph Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.
Notes to Editors: Full analysis entitled Sins of Omission: Women’s and LGBTI rights reporting under the Trump administration is available here.