This Women’s History Month, let’s honor our past by working together to help all women. When it comes to improving women’s opportunities, if we put aside political acrimony, there is the possibility of tremendous bipartisan agreement.
Last month, Ivanka Trump announced the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative to help 50 million women in developing countries advance economically by 2025. Under the new national security initiative, President Donald Trump directed the U.S. Agency for International Development to invest $50 million in a fund to encourage workforce and vocational training for women, to foster entrepreneurship, and to eliminate “legal, regulatory and cultural barriers” to participation in local economies.
While the Trump administration deserves credit for making the empowerment of women around the world a priority, the initiative continues the tradition of the Obama administration, which championed a global strategy to empower adolescent girls in 2016. This should be an area where Democrats and Republicans can come together to encourage better treatment of, and create more opportunity for, women around the globe.
Another area of potential bipartisan agreement would be to eliminate the loophole in U.S. immigration law that allows adults in the United States to petition for immigration benefits for child brides. A recent bipartisan investigation led by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, found that during the past 11 years, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services granted more than 8,600 immigration petitions for spousal or fiancé entry involving a minor. In 149 approved petitions involving an adult spouse or fiancé and a minor, the adult was older than 40. And more than 4,700 minors in the United States on spousal or fiancé visas received green cards during that period.
News of the child bride loophole evoked condemnation across the political spectrum. Chelsea Clinton tweeted it was “horrifying,” and Ann Coulter called it simply “sick.” Reforming the Immigration and Nationality Act to bar child marriages from conferring immigration benefits would be a good starting place for a bipartisan women’s empowerment agenda.
Republicans and Democrats also could come together to strengthen federal efforts to prevent women and girls in America and around the world from being subjugated to female genital mutilation — the barbaric practice of removing the external genitalia of girls and young women without a medical purpose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that more than 500,000 women and girls in the United States were at risk of or had suffered from female genital mutilation in 2012.
Last year, Judge Bernard Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan declared the federal law banning female genital mutilation to be unconstitutional.
The There Is No Limit Foundation, a nonprofit organization working to end female genital mutilation, released a statement in response to the ruling: “FGM continues to be a violation of human rights by global standards and a crime in many states within the U.S. This practice presents great risks to the physical and emotional well-being of women and girls. FGM has no benefits and is not a religious requirement.”
Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation into law to make female genital mutilation a felony. Prominent Democrats, in particular, former Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, who was defeated by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in last summer’s primary, have been leaders in fighting to end female genital mutilation. Ocasio-Cortez or one of her colleagues could pick up his mantle and get agreement in Congress to establish new statutory requirements to press federal agencies to do their part to prevent female genital mutilation.
Women have come a long way, but there is more work to be done to protect women and girls from exploitation — in America and around the globe. Republicans and Democrats should commit to working together to make it happen.