by Eva Marie Wüst Vestergaard
The inauguration of president-elect Donald Trump is one week away, and with it comes enormous potential for violations of international law. President-elect Trump has proposed plans for laws and policies that discriminate based on religion, race and gender. If enacted, these policies would have a shattering effect on America’s democracy, and must be prevented by all means.
Many of Trump’s statements over the course of the campaign trail involved religious and racial discrimination. For example, when talking with ABC News in November 2015, he proposed setting up a database just of refugees; “I want a database for the refugees that — if they come into the country. We have no idea who these people are. When the Syrian refugees are going to start pouring into this country, we don't know if they're ISIS, we don't know if it's a Trojan horse.” Such proposals are not just morally wrong, but can also lead to negative consequences for the country.
Racial discrimination causes harm on an individual level by dehumanizing the one who is subject to racism. On a societal level, it demoralizes a society that should be based on equality and democracy.
Religious freedom, or the right to have your own beliefs, is a foundational doctrine of the US. The idea that the state should not interfere with citizen’s beliefs is at the core of American values. Therefore, this proposal would have devastating consequences for American ideals and the global rule of law if fulfilled.
Trump has also issued many statements that constitute gender discrimination. In an interview with ABC News in 1994 he said, “Putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing,” and in an interview with NBC in 2004 he said, "[Pregnancy is] a wonderful thing for the woman, it's a wonderful thing for the husband, it's certainly an inconvenience for a business. And whether people want to say that or not, the fact is it is an inconvenience for a person that is running a business."
This perception of women being unequal to men, and not involving women in the labor market, is wrong because it, as with racial discrimination, leads to an unequal and unjust society. To achieve gender equality, women must be in power equally with men so that there can be a true representative democracy.
International laws are created to protect civil society from threats and ensure progress. These promises of discrimination violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating that everyone is “born free and equal in dignity and rights.” They also violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that obliges States Parties to ensure equal rights and circumvent discrimination. The US holds obligations to prevent discrimination as a member state of these conventions.
The US has been defined by democracy, equality, and freedom throughout history up until today. This is what makes America great. That is the reason why America must hold onto these values, and why the international community must hold America responsible if it breaks them.
Photo: Gage Skidmore