Biden signs executive orders on gender equity

Washington, March 9 : US President Joe Biden signed two executive orders aimed to promote gender equity and vowed “to ensure that every domestic and foreign policy we pursue rests on a foundation of dignity and equity for women”.

“In our nation, as in all nations, women have fought for justice, shattered barriers, built and sustained economies, carried communities through times of crisis, and served with dignity and resolve,” Xinhua news agency quoted Biden as saying on Monday after signing the orders.

“Too often, they have done so while being denied the freedom, full participation, and equal opportunity all women are due.

“Their contributions have been downplayed. Their stories have been neglected. That is why International Women’s Day is also a time for us to recommit ourselves to the cause of equity and equality for women the world over, and to shine a light on the systemic obstacles that fuel gender disparities and undermine women’s potential,” he said.

Biden noted that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted gender inequities since women bearing the brunt of most job losses and caregiving responsibilities in the US and around the world.

“It’s forcing millions more girls out of school, which could impact economic growth for decades to come. Incidents of violence against women in their homes and communities have spiked. And, as is so often the case, Covid-19 is hitting the poorest and most marginalised women the hardest.”

Latest data revealed that the pandemic has hit women the hardest. Some 2.5 million women left the workforce in 2020 compared with 1.8 million men.

The Department of Labor’s February jobs report last week found Black and Hispanic women showed the greatest declines in labor force participation.

The first executive order establishes a Gender Policy Council within the White House, reformulating the White House Council on Women and Girls set up under former President Barack Obama and later disbanded by Donald Trump’s administration.

The council will work with all cabinet secretaries and submit an annual report to the President to measure progress on prioritising gender equality across the government.

The second executive order seeks to reverse a controversial regulation by the Trump administration that granted more rights and protections to those accused of sexual assault or harassment on campus.

The order directs the Education Department to review all existing regulations to guarantee “an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex, including discrimination in the form of sexual harassment, which encompasses sexual violence, and including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity”.

Also on Monday, Biden nominated two women to be four-star generals.

He picked General Jacqueline Van Ovost, current commander of Air Mobility Command for the US Air Force, to be commander for the Transportation Command, and Lt. General Laura Richardson, current commanding general of U.S. Army North, to be commander for the U.S. Southern Command.

If confirmed, Ovost and Richardson will become the second and third women to lead a combatant command.

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