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Feminist Policy Demands for the Biden Era

In just a few short weeks, 2021 has revealed how high the stakes are and what kind of change is possible when we organize together to demand it.

With the inauguration of the Biden-Harris administration, a new terrain of possibilities opens up for us. In less than a week, President Biden has signed a slew of executive orders -- from ending Trump's Muslim travel ban to blocking the catastrophic Keystone pipeline -- answering urgent calls that progressive organizers have made for years.

The work ahead will be hard. We need to repair the harms of the last four years of the Trump administration’s attacks on the rights of women, LGBTQ+ communities, immigrants, and people of color, both in the US and around the world. These abuses have compounded decades of failed US policies of war, militarism, and climate inaction.

Now, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris owe the voters who enabled their win — and the world — a foreign policy rooted in care and repair for the harms of the past. This is the moment to push forward unapologetically. To advance progressive, feminist priorities. To center women, girls, Black and Indigenous communities, and people of color-led movements in policymaking.

That’s what we intend to do in the pivotal time ahead, together with our grassroots partners around the world. Here are ten of our demands for the Biden administration to confront the crises we face with strategies grounded in gender justice and human rights:

1. Advance policies that center care:  The pandemic has underscored the importance of care work — largely performed by women and girls of color. This labor is undervalued, invisibilized, and underpaid. Biden must make real his plan to resource care work domestically, and globally, his administration must support women and girl-led organizations providing care in their communities. Further, he should reject neoliberal policies that slash public spending and privatize services here at home and in the Global South — in favor of policies that strengthen vital social safety nets and uplift care work.

2. Prioritize diplomacy and international cooperation: We can’t recover from our world’s largest crises — the climate crisis, growing inequality, COVID-19 — without global collaboration and commitments to multilateralism. Biden has promised to reprioritize diplomacy, including by re-entering the Iran nuclear deal. He has signed an executive action to rejoin the World Health Organization, and when it comes to global vaccine distribution to end the pandemic, for example, Biden has committed to joining the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access facility.

But we must always remember: true leadership is not about America calling the shots. It’s feminist leadership, which relies on shared, cooperative approaches and recognizes that our fates are interconnected. It means avoiding the trap of thinking that the US is a “great power” in competition with other countries like China and Russia, and instead recognizing the need to work together.

3. Respect international human rights law: The Trump administration consistently undermined respect for international law. But these mechanisms are vital to advance not only rights — but also justice and accountability. The Biden administration should, at minimum, rejoin the Human Rights Council and finally ratify key treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. MADRE is also organizing to strengthen human rights protections for Indigenous women through our campaign, CEDAW for Indigenous Women and Girls.

4. Promote women-led peace and demilitarize foreign policy: The militarized approach to security has not made us safe. While Biden has promised to end forever wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, and end support for the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen, his platform says that “[w]e have the strongest military in the world” and that he “will ensure it stays that way.” Biden has also stated his “unbreakable commitment to Israel’s security,” including through billions of dollars in military aid and intelligence cooperation.

We call for a transformative shift towards a foreign policy rooted in feminist peace, led by women and communities of color. This requires cutting the Pentagon budget, investing in care and recovery, and ending military aid and arms sales to authoritarian regimes. We also call for the Biden administration to prioritize consulting with women peacebuilders in conflict zones, including in Yemen and Afghanistan, and to center them in ongoing peace processes.

5. Ensure protections for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence: While vital for public health, quarantine and lockdown measures have exacerbated conditions that enable domestic and gender-based violence. The Biden administration should resource grassroots organizations that are tackling domestic violence and supporting women, girls, and LGBTQ+ communities. MADRE is expanding the global movement against domestic violence by supporting our partners to defend survivors and campaigning to change laws. We’re also providing grassroots organizations with tools to prevent, address, and document this violence.

6. Advance a feminist, global Green New Deal: We need a climate plan that is urgent, ambitious, and centers the rights and solutions of those most impacted — women, girls, and Afro-descendant and Indigenous communities. Biden has signed executive orders to rejoin the Paris climate agreement and cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. Biden should also listen to Indigenous organizers and cancel the Line 3 pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline, as well as fossil fuel projects globally. The Biden administration should also commit to a feminist Green New Deal that tackles the root causes of the climate crisis by recognizing the ways that women, girls and LGBTQ+ people are impacted by climate change and centering their solutions. As the largest historical carbon emitter, the US must commit to reparations and covering its fair share of climate finance for communities in the Global South.

7. Strengthen global economic justice: The pandemic has deepened global economic inequality, with women and girls disproportionately affected by widespread unemployment, hunger, and poverty. In the US, all 140,000 jobs lost in December were held by women, with Black and Latinx women disproportionately impacted. Meanwhile, communities worldwide are further reeling from the devastating humanitarian impacts of economic sanctions.

Biden must take action to ensure that countries in the Global South can recover economically and provide robust social benefits to struggling communities. This can include policies that provide governments funding to aid recovery from COVID-19; debt relief; guarantees that loans and grants will not be conditioned on cuts to public benefits; and a robust, generous stimulus with support for families domestically and globally. Biden should also lift broad-based economic sanctions on North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, and other impacted countries — which he still has not committed to. MADRE plans to expand our grantmaking for women and communities in countries impacted by economic sanctions.

8. Protect reproductive rights: Biden has agreed to uphold reproductive rights by eliminating the Global Gag Rule and restoring funding for the United Nations Population Fund. Biden should also repeal the Helms Amendment, which prohibits US foreign aid from being used for abortion services, and push Congress to make these changes permanent through legislation.

9. Guarantee immigrants’ rights: Biden has signed executive actions to strengthen DACA, halt deportations for 100 days, and reverse the Muslim ban. He has pledged to increase the quota of refugees and to restore asylum rights, including for gender-based asylum. MADRE continues to work to preserve crucial legal protections for survivors of domestic violence seeking asylum. We also urge Biden to prioritize reuniting families who were separated at the border by US agents; dismantle the abusive Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency; and recognize and redress the legacy of destructive US policies that drive migration, while upholding the right to freedom of movement.

10. Defend democracy: The forces behind Trumpism — white supremacy, sexism, racism, xenophobia — continue to fuel right-wing authoritarianism globally. We must strengthen our feminist movements to build the grassroots infrastructure necessary to confront the right-wing, build peace, and defend democracy. Domestically and globally, we see a crackdown on civic space, activism, and dissent. In the US, the January 6th white supremacist attack on the Capitol has spurred Republican lawmakers to pass new anti-protest bills, which could lead to harsher penalties and the criminalization of Indigenous water protectors. Globally, we’ve seen similar efforts by right-wing governments, such as the Philippines “anti-terror” laws or the imprisonment of thousands of protesters and activists in Egypt. The Biden administration should oppose any efforts to quash dissent and organizing, while resourcing women human rights defenders domestically and globally.

To learn more about our work to advance feminist US policies, click here.

January 26, 2021