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The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2002 ( Part Two )(04/03/03)



V. Women and Children Are in Worrisome Situation
Discrimination against women is common in the United States. USA Today reported on January 6, 2003 that women hold merely 14 percent of seats in Congress. According to a survey report released by researchers at Rutgers university, discrimination against ethnic minorities was found in one third of business firms in the United States, and discrimination against women was reported in one fourth of 200,000 firms. In hospitals, shops, restaurants and bars, women of African, Latin American and Asian descent made up 70 percent of those who have been hurt.
American women are likely to become victims of crimes and violence. A study report published by the Harvard School of Public Health on April 17, 2002 said that American females are at the highest risk of murder, and the US female homicide victimization rate is 5 times that of all the other high income countries combined. The United States accounts for 70 percent of all female homicides in the 25 high income countries, and 4,400 American females are murdered each year, with about half by firearms.
American women are also likely to become victims of sexual assaults. In 2002, several scandals of sexual assaults on women by clergies were exposed. According to reports, over the past five years, in Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Texas, and Wisconsin, a number of faith healing-related sexual assaults were exposed, with some faith healers found to have raped women during the therapy.
Police and public prosecutors believe that hundreds of women in Los Angeles and other places were sexually abused when they sought help from faith healers (March 13, 2002, L.A. Times). Agence France Presse (AFP) reported that a survey conducted by researchers at St. Louis University in 1996 but kept under wraps after completion shows that about 40 percent of American Catholic nuns (nearly 35,000) have been sexually abused, often at the hands of a priest or another nun. (Jan. 5, 2003, Washington, AFP).
American children often fall victim to domestic violence, social crimes, their parents' divorces, and abandonment. According to a study published by researchers at Harvard University in 2002,in American states and regions with high gun ownership, children have more chances to be murdered, to commit suicide or to meet accidental death. Between 1988 and 1997, a total of 6,817 children, aged 5-14, were shot to death in the 50 states of the United States (Boston, Feb. 28, 2002, Reuters).
Young girls missing and the kidnapping of children are frequent. Statistics show that in the United States, 58,000 children were kidnapped by people other than their families each year, and 40 percent of them were slain in the end. Another 200,000 children were kidnapped by their family members, mostly for the right of custody (Washington, Aug. 6, 2002, Xinhua News Agency).
In 2002, a series of scandals of sexual assaults on children by Catholic clergies were exposed. An article titled "Sins of the Fathers" published by the Newsweek magazine on March 4, 2002 reported that the child-sexual-abuse settlements may have cost the American church US$1 billion during the 1986-1996 period. Some 80 priests have been accused of sexually abusing children, with one said to have assaulted more than 100 children over the past 40 years.
The Sun newspaper reported on April 29, 2002 that there were 46,000 priests in the United States, and in the past 18 years at least 1,500 had been charged (Sun, Apr. 29, 2002). According to the newspaper Christian Science Monitor, the targets of sex-related crimes committed by American clergies were mostly children, and since 1985 over 70 clergies and priests were imprisoned for molestation of children (Christian Science Monitor, March 21, 2002).
Many children have encountered serious difficulties in their life, medical treatment and education, and many of them have not received parental love and care. According to a report published by the Public Policy Institute of California in November 2002, 20 percent of Californian children aged under 5 years live in poverty, compared with the national average of 15 percent. The New York Times reported last July that the proportion of American children who grow up in parentless families is increasing, from the previous 7.5 percent to the present 16.1 percent.
The non-governmental Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children says in its 2002 report that nearly 5,000 children were detained every year by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service for entering the United States illegally. Their average age is 15 years, with the youngest only one and a half years.
Most of these children did not have other criminal records except illegal entry. However, over 30 percent of these children were commingled with young offenders, handcuffed and shackled, sent to prisons or detained in warehouses with very poor safety conditions.
VI. Deep-rooted Racial Discrimination
Racial discrimination is deep-rooted in the United States. Senate Republican leader Trent Lott had repeatedly made remarks supporting racial segregation during his political life. He had tried by every means to prevent the Congress from passing a bill on establishing the birthday of Martin Luther King, a murdered civil rights leader of the blacks, as a national holiday.
On December 5, 2002, when attending a 100th birthday party for Sen. Strom Thurmond from South Carolina, who ran for the presidency in 1948 as a segregationist candidate, Lott said that the United States would be better off if Strom Thurmond had won the presidency that year. Lott's remarks triggered strong reaction of the Congressional Black Caucus.
In the end, Lott quitted his post as Senate Republican leader under the pressure of public opinion ("Black Caucus unforgiving after Lott's apology" by William M. Welch, Dec. 11 2002, USA Today).
For more than 100 years between 1862 and 1965, the United States had enforced a law restricting immigrants from Asia and forbidding marriage between immigrants of Asian descent and white people. Many states nullified the law in the 1940s-1960s, but it is still in effect in the states of New Mexico and Florida.
Racial discrimination is serious in law enforcement. According to a study by the Justice Policy Institute of the United States, blacks constitute only 12.9 percent of America's total population, but black prisoners account for 46 percent of the total in jail in the nation; approximately one in every five blacks is jailed for some time during his or her life.
The number of blacks in jail is greater than that of blacks at college. In 2000, about 800,000 blacks were in jail, compared with only 600,000 blacks registered in institutions of higher learning. Among the new inmates put in prison since 1980, people of African and Latin American descent have accounted for 70 percent.
The Sun newspaper reported on Jan. 8, 2003 that defendants who kill white people are significantly more likely to be charged with capital murder and sentenced to death than are killers of non-whites, and a black offender accused of killing a white victim is most likely to be put on death row.
The paper quoted a study as saying that the probability that someone accused of killing a white person will be charged with capital murder is 1.6 times higher than the probability for a black-victim homicide. Blacks who kill whites are two and one-halftimes more likely to be sentenced to death than are whites who kill whites, and three and one-half times more likely than are blacks who kill blacks. Though a majority of Maryland's homicide victims were black, of the 12 inmates on Maryland's death row awaiting execution, eight were black, and all were convicted of killing white people.
Minorities are among the poorest groups in the United States. A Federal Reserve report issued on January 22, 2003 said that the gap in wealth between American whites and ethnic minorities widened by 21 percent between 1998 and 2001. The US Census Bureau reported in its 2002 annual report on income and poverty that in 2001, the poverty rate in the United States rose to 11.7 percent; the poverty rate was 22.7 percent among African Americans, and 21.4 percent among Hispanics, both nearly double the rate for other ethnic groups.
African American and Hispanic homeowners paid higher interest rates for housing loans than white people did. In the metropolitan area of Washington D.C., among households that made at least 120 percent of the typical income in the area, 32 percent of blacks held high-interest loans while only 11 percent of whites did; among households that made 80 percent or less of the typical income, 56 percent of blacks had high-interest loans and 25 percent of whites did.
Minorities also suffer from unfair treatment in schooling. Racial segregation in public schools has got even worse than decades ago. Only four of all 185 school districts across the United States witnessed increase in black-white exposure (exposure of black students to white students) between 1986 and 2000. The 24school districts with the worst racial segregation were found in Texas and Georgia states.
The newspaper Christian Science Monitor reported on Jan. 21, 2003 that in the state of Georgia 32 percent of white elementary school teachers left their posts at predominantly black schools in2001. The situation was the same in Texas, California and North Carolina. Lots of classes had to be taught by substitute teachers who didn't have degrees and weren't licensed to teach, and "black students aren't getting an equal shot at good schooling".
Among the third graders in elementary schools in California, 70percent of white children met the required educational attainment standard, compared with 37 percent of black children and 27 percent of Hispanic children. The enrollment rate of minority students in schools of higher learning was declining.
A 2002 report by researchers of Harvard University pointed out that America's pervasive legacy of slavery, racism, and substandard, segregated health care for many of the nation's minorities has left a deep chasm between the health status of most minorities and whites. Blacks have enjoyed much poorer medical treatment than whites ever since they came to America from Africa.   
African Americans have much higher rates of heart diseases, diabetes, AIDS and some cancers. Blacks have a cancer death rate about 35 percent higher than that of whites, the AIDS cases among black women and children are 75 percent higher than among white people, and African-American children also have much higher rates of asthma and juvenile diabetes than white children. There is a life expectancy gap of about seven years between whites and African Americans. ("Blacks suffer most from managed care, by Julianne Malveaux, Nov. 29, 2002, USA Today).
Racial discrimination has been on the rise in the United States since the September 11 terrorist attacks. The US authorities have intensified restrictions on new immigrants and slowed down its procedure for approving entry of immigrants. Tougher regulations have been adopted, requiring new immigrants to register their residences at Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) offices, or otherwise face imprisonment, fines or even deportation. In August 2002, in airport safety inspections the FBI arrested a large number of immigrant airport workers, mostly Latinos.
Discrimination against Muslims and Arabs is the most serious. According to statistics from the Islamic Society of North America,48 percent of Muslims living in the Unites States said their lives have changed for the worse since Sept. 11. By the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, approximately 60 percent of Muslims had experienced in person or witnessed acts of discrimination against Muslims including public harassment, physical assault and property damage. There had been nearly 2,000 vicious criminal cases against Muslims, including 11 murders and 56 death threats.
In Los Angeles, assaults on Islamic institutions rose by 16 times from 28 in 2000 to 481 in 2001. In Toledo City, Ohio, more than 10,000 residents of Arab descent were monitored and wiretapped by judicial departments after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and they were not allowed to talk to lawyers. Moreover, judicial departments can have house search at any time.
The US Immigration and Naturalization Service announced in August 2002 that males from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Sudan are to be fingerprinted on entering the United States. In November the same year, a new federal regulation added another 13 countries including Afghanistan to the list. Males from these 18 countries, who are 16 years and older and on temporary visas to the United States are subject to "special registration", to report to relevant departments and be fingerprinted and photographed before the designated deadline.
On December 16, 2002, more than 1,000 Muslims from Iran, Iraq and other Middle East nations went to the immigration offices in California for the "special registration" procedures. However, most of them were detained by immigration officers right away, under accusations of holding invalid visas, overstaying their visas or other wrongdoing. The US Department of Justice later admitted that about 500 immigrants of Mideast descent were arrested.
While statistics from local Islamic institutions showed that at least 700 people were arrested, some even put it at about 1,000. News reports said that as the immigration detention center was overcrowded, some of the detainees were moved to prison. The detainees complained that they were stripped, searched, and given prison suits after their clothes were taken away. Many people were locked in one cell, with no bed or quilt, and had to sleep on the icy cement floor.


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