View the CERD shadow report “Invisible Violations” here.


This report will examine the treatment of women from racial minorities in the United States (“women of color”). We will show violations of CERD articles 2 and 5 by highlighting three specific situations:

Violations of the right to education and health for girl child farm laborers, who are primarily Latina;

Violations of the right to work for transgender women of color; and

Violations of the right to bodily security and health for women of color in prison.

We focused on women of color to support the Committee’s effort to explicitly recognize how gender shapes the way racial discrimination affects different people, and to make marginalized women of color more visible. In fact, these communities are so invisible that, except for women of color in prison, no accurate numbers exist to describe their situations. They need the international community’s oversight and intervention to recognize the human rights that are being violated and provide recommendations for redress.

Violations of Rights to Health and Education for Girl Child Laborers in U.S. Agriculture.

Agricultural work is recognized as the most dangerous industry for children and yet, it is the least protected. Hundreds of thousands of children, most of whom are racial minorities, perform long and hard labor in dangerous conditions that benefit U.S. society at large, but is of no longterm benefit to them and little benefit to their families. These children harvest the fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States yet, they do not enjoy the same health and safety protection that most people are entitled to in their workplaces.Child farmworkers work stooped over, using knives and other dangerous tools for long hours. Twelve to fourteen hour days are not uncommon. About 3/4 of the deaths to workers under age 15 occurred in agriculture. Yet, child farmworkers are exempted inmost cases from receiving minimum wage and overtime compensation. In addition, agricultural pesticide has been found to have an adverse effect on development, including increasing risk for breast cancer. Child farmworkers also face significant obstacles in education. Because of their long working hours they often arrive in class tired and unprepared, and their frequent migration makes it difficult to build and maintain meaningful relationships with their teachers and peers. Moreover, because bilingual education is rare and English is currently the primary mode of instruction in U.S. schools, the limited English proficiency of many child farmworkers also impede academic achievement.

Violations of Right to Work for Transgender Women of Color

Transgender women of color are often rendered invisible and marginalized by profound and pervasive discrimination in U.S. society. The current U.S. census does not track the number of transgender and gender variant people currently living in the country. However, recent estimates place the number of transgender and gender variant persons in the United States as between 600,000 and 1.2 million. Assuming that U.S. racial and demographics hold the number of transgender persons of color range from just over 200,000 to 400,000. Given that the last census showed about half of respondents identified as female, there are between 100,000 to 200,000 transgender women of color.Transgender and gender variant persons report similar obstacles to obtaining and retaining meaningful, lawful employment. However, for transgender women of color, discrimination and bias on the basis of race and gender status are equally significant (if not more significant in some cases) factors, culminating in high rates of unemployment, poverty, and criminalization. While racial discrimination and discrimination on the basis of sex are prohibited under federal law, significant loopholes remain that allow employment discrimination against transgender women of color to go largely unchecked.

Violations of Right to Bodily Integrity and Health for Women of Color in Prison

Women in prison are often forgotten when discussing the need for reproductive justice. As noted in the Committee’s Concluding Observations to the U.S. 2001 report, racial minorities are disproportionately imprisoned in the United States. As of December 2007, the racial distribution of women in prisons, including federal prisons, was approximately 34 percent African American,16 percent Latina, 45 percent white and 5 percent other. A recent government study found that African Americans accounted for 44 percent of the women in local jails and 48 percent of the women in state prisons. The majority of people in women’s prisons are between 25 and 34 years, the prime childbearing years.Prison medical facilities are administering hysterectomies and other procedures that result in sterilization when less extreme treatments may have sufficed, often without giving women adequate information, and sometimes even without a woman’s clear consent. In addition, pregnant women in U.S. prisons, many of whom are high risk due to past histories of poverty, malnutrition or abuse, face rampant violations of their human rights.Thus, we call on the U.N. CERD Committee and international community to listen to voices of these women and to hold the U.S. accountable to uphold international human rights.


Based upon the case examples included in this report we strongly urge the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to pay special attention to U.S. government’s obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of the most marginalized members of racial minorities, including but not limited to young Latina farmworkers, women of color in prison, and transgender women of color, in terms of its compliance with CERD articles 2 and 5.

General Recommendations

  • Pass implementing legislation to give effect to CERD including the identification of states and all branches of government under the treaty, and the obligation of the federal government to enforce compliance.
  • Ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination AgainstWomen (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), thereby fulfilling the minimum standard for the respect of human rights asked of all nations.
  • Provide disaggregated data, including, but not limited to, race, gender, age and sexual orientation, to better expose racial discrimination and develop remedies

Girl-Child Laborers

  • Amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to provide equal protection for all working children by modifying the provisions related to children working in agriculture by raising the age limit to 18 for hazardous jobs and a minimum age of 14 to perform other duties. Such an amendment would equalize protection for all working children.
  • Develop procedures and mechanisms to effectively enforce existing rules and regulations at the national and state levels.Provide more accurate statistics and data on children working in the agricultural industry, including disaggregated data by gender.

Transgender Women of Color

  • Ensure that all transgender and gender variant youth, especially youth of color, are protected against harassment and discrimination, and provide funding for special programs intended to retain them in formal education.
  • Immediately ban discrimination in employment based on gender identity at the federal level.
  • Allow individuals and groups to sue for their rights under this law, and provide funding for government agencies to disseminate information on these protections to transgender and gender variant communities, schools, service providers, and employers.
  • Provide funding for job placement, career counseling, and job creation opportunities and programs targeting transgender women and youth of color.

Women of Color in Prison

  • Ensure that all pregnant women in prison must receive adequate healthcare, including mental health support and should not be shackled during birth.
  • Prohibit the performance of elective sterilizations on people in prison and ensure the approval of all medical sterilizations by a second doctor unconnected to the Corrections department.

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