McCollum lambasts Bush policies toward women

The U.S. representative spoke on International Women’s Day.

Elizabeth Dunbar

Democrat U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum told International Women’s Day attendees Saturday that the George W. Bush administration’s policies are detrimental to women’s rights here and around the world.

McCollum represents St. Paul and addressed more than 100 people – mostly women – who braved four inches of new snow to attend the U.N.-sponsored International Women’s Day at the University’s Law School.

“It is shameful that in the United States of America women have an illusion of equality, but in reality we are not guaranteed equal rights,” McCollum said.

In addition to condemning Minnesota and national initiatives to limit women’s reproductive rights, McCollum criticized the Bush administration for preventing the Treaty for the Rights of Women, a U.N. initiative, from passing. Since May, 170 countries have signed and ratified the treaty.

“The agenda coming out of the Bush White House is a constant attack against women,” she said.

McCollum called recent news reports of 55 cases of rape and sexual assault against female U.S. Air Force Academy cadets “a shocking indictment of our own justice system.”

“They have been victimized by their classmates, and then they have been victimized again by a system that encourages silence,” she said.

In response to a question, McCollum said concealed weapons legislation supported by Gov. Tim Pawlenty gives women the message they aren’t safe.

“I don’t ever want to tell my daughter that in order to be safe in the United States of America she has to carry a gun,” McCollum said.

Barbara Frey, Institute for Global Studies’ Human Rights Program director, said McCollum’s perspective was an important one to hear.

“She has been a strong spokesperson for women’s rights issues at a time when both the women’s and human rights communities feel threatened by the Bush administration’s attitude,” Frey said.

The Human Rights Program – which provides learning opportunities through classes, research and internships – co-sponsored the event.

The daylong event included McCollum’s speech, entertainment by a women’s duo and workshops on topics concerning women’s rights in the United States and abroad.

Many of the human rights organizations sponsoring the event advocate for women immigrants’ rights.

Frey said connecting immigrant women with the larger women’s community helps them access needed services.

“I think now economic issues are really important in this era of budget cuts,” Frey said. “Women are going to be asked to get by with less, to work even harder to take care of their families under very difficult circumstances.”

Elizabeth Dunbar covers international affairs and welcomes comments at

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