Gender discrimination is an important aspect of social inequality in
the United States. Until this day, there has been no constitutional provision
on equality between men and women. On September 18, 2000, with support
of some NGOs, a dozen surviving " comfort women" brought a class
action with a federal court in Washington D.C., demanding public apology
and compensation from the Japanese government. The US government, however,
issued a statement of interest in July 2001, calling for dismissal of
the lawsuit on the ground that recruiting of "comfort women"
by the Japanese army during the Second World War was a "sovereign
act." The statement aroused protects from the US National Organization
for Women, the Truth Council for World War II in Asia and other NGOs.
This incident, in its own way, reflects current conditions in protection
of women's human rights in the United States and America's official attitude
towards women's rights demand.
Violence against women is a serious social problem in the United States.
According to US official statistics, one American woman is beaten in every
15 seconds on average and some 700,000 cases of rape occur every year.
According to the 121st edition of the American Census published on January
24, 2002, in 1998 about one million people were suspected of involvement
in violence between spouses and between men and women as friends. In March
2001, Amnesty International USA issued a report after two years' investigation,
saying that the human rights of female prison inmates in the United States
are often fringed upon and that they often fall victim to sexual harassment
or rape by prison guards. Seven states even do not have laws or legal
provisions banning sexual relations between prison officials and female
Protection of American children's rights is far from being adequate. The
United States is one of the only two countries that have not acceded to
Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is one of the only five countries
that execute juvenile offenders in violation of relevant international
conventions. More juvenile offenders are executed in the United States
than in any of the other four. In 25 states, the youngest age eligible
for death sentence is set at 17; and 21 states set that age at 16 or do
not impose an age limit at all. Besides, the United States is among the
few countries where psychiatric and mentally retarded offenders could
be executed. According to the Human Rights Watch, in the 1990s, nine juveniles
were sentenced to death in the United States, and the number was greater
than that reported by any of the other countries.
American children are susceptible to violence and poverty. According to
a report published on November 28, 2001 by the US Violent Policy Center,
analysis of the murder data released by FBI shows that from 1995 to 1999,
3,971 infants and juveniles aged one to 17 years were murdered in handgun
homicides. The firearm homicide rate for American children was 16 times
the figure for children in 25 other industrialized countries. Black children
have the highest rate of handgun homicide victimization, seven times higher
than that for white children. In April 2000, the US Fund for the Protection
of the Child published a green paper on conditions of American children.
It quotes the poverty statistics of the American government for 1999 as
saying that more than 12 million children were living below the poverty
line set by the federal government, accounting for one-sixth of the total
number of children in the country. A report by the US Health and Public
Service Department released at the beginning of 2001 says that 10 percent
of the American children have mental health problems and that one out
of every ten children and children in adolescence suffered from mental
illnesses that are serious enough to hurt. Nevertheless, those able to
receive treatment could not exceed one- fifth.
The problem of missing children is serious. Figures published by FBI in
2001 showed that in 1999, 750,000 children went missing, accounting for
90 percent of the total number of people who went missing in the year.
To put it another way, an average of 2,100 children at 17 or younger went
missing every day. Since the Missing Children Act was enacted in 1982,
the number of children registered by police as missing has increased by
American children often fall prey to sexual abuse. According to a report
published in September 2001 by a group of researchers at the University
of Pennsylvania after three years' investigation, about 400,000 American
children are streetwalkers or engage in various obscene activities for
money near their schools. Children who have fled their homes or are homeless
suffer most severely from sexual abuse. Sexual harassment against children
by clergymen in the United States is serious. According to Newsweek published
on February 26, 2002, the Boston archdiocese of the US Roman Catholic
Church has over the past decade paid 1 billion US dollars in compensation
in lawsuits of sexual harassment by its clergymen against children. About
80 Boston clergymen are suspected of having molested children sexually.
One has been accused of sexually molested more than 100 children. This,
the greatest scandal in the United States following the Enron case, has
aroused nationwide attention to the problem that is also common among
clergymen elsewhere and, as a result, a string of similar cases have been
brought to light.