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U.S. Lagging on Constitutional Rights, Study Finds

New research from the UCLA WORLD Policy Analysis Center shows that the United States is falling behind its global peers when it comes to guarantees for key constitutional rights. “The new decade begins with clear constitutional gaps that place the United States in a global minority” for failing to guarantee rights to healthcare and gender equality, said Jody Heymann, founder of the nonprofit policy research center. “Globally, the U.S. now lags 165 other nations with stronger constitutional protections for women. And the U.S. is absent from the 142 countries globally … that provide some degree of constitutional protection for the right to health,” said Heymann, a distinguished professor of public policy, medicine, and health policy and management at UCLA. Worldwide, the center’s researchers found a considerable expansion of protections over the past 50 years but noted that millions are still left without human rights guarantees, leaving them vulnerable to discrimination. Groups experiencing the greatest gaps in rights guarantees include migrants, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ community. To produce the report, researchers analyzed the constitutions of all 193 United Nations member states. “Constitutions help shape social norms and send clear messages about who matters and what nations value,” Heymann said. The report is now available as an online resource featuring policy briefs, maps and downloadable data as well as the book “Advancing Equality,” available for  download at UC Press. The book’s authors, Heymann, Amy Raub and Aleta Sprague, also wrote an op-ed for CNN arguing that it’s time for the United States to guarantee gender equality by enshrining the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.

Heymann Leads Research on Disability Rights and Gender Equality

Two research efforts led by Jody Heymann, distinguished professor of public policy, medicine, and health policy and management at UCLA, were released recently at the United Nations and in the journal Lancet. Heymann is founding director of the WORLD Policy Analysis Center, which presented a report to a U.N. session on the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. The report by the WORLD center, part of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, assessed compliance with the convention, which lays out global commitments to uphold the rights of those with disabilities. Since its adoption in 2006, 177 of the 193 U.N. member states have ratified the convention. “Every child on the planet has the right to fully accessible, quality education and every adult has the right to dignified work without discrimination, but not all countries are fulfilling these rights,” Heymann said. “Our analysis shows that the world is further behind in guaranteeing these fundamental human rights to persons with disabilities when compared to other groups.” The Lancet published research Heymann led on another topic: improving health by breaking down gender barriers. The researchers reviewed policies such as tuition-free primary education and paid parental leave, and assessed their potential to transform gender norms, battle inequality and make communities healthier. “Policymakers need to take the steps that have been proven to reduce discrimination and increase gender equality in education, work and income, each a social determinant of health,” the research team found.