by Sabrina Acloque
Obtaining equality has been the perpetual struggle of women and people of color in the United States. The struggle for equality has reared its head in many forums, including in education, in access to housing and safe neighborhoods, in employment opportunities and rate of pay, and as of late, in ensuring the equal value of Black lives.
The biggest hindrance to obtaining such equality has been due to embedded beliefs that regard individuals from marginalized groups as less than those in the dominant group(s). Today, we often refer to these embedded beliefs as racism and sexism. While most would agree that racism and sexism are ills that we should strive to erase from our society, what keeps them alive is a phenomenon more complex: implicit bias. Implicit bias is the subconscious favoring or disfavoring of one group over another based on stereotypes. I believe that overcoming implicit bias is necessary to dismantle the larger ills of racism and sexism that have divided our society for centuries.
Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”) is instructive because it proclaims that “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law…[T]he law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground, such as race, colour, [and] sex.” In addition, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“ICERD”) provides that State parties should encourage “means of eliminating barriers between races” (Article 2(1)(e)). Finally, Article 11 of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) also provides that State parties shall “take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment,” including ensuring that women receive equal pay for equal work.
To ensure that these norms are implemented at the local level, activists can educate community members about the barriers that have prevented certain groups from having access to opportunities. In addition, trainings on implicit bias should be conducted so that people will know how to check their assumptions before making critical decisions such as who gets hired for a position and who gets stopped by police. Community members and stakeholders can also testify at government hearings to encourage the passage of supportive legislation. In addition, human rights practitioners – whether working individually or collaboratively – can devise litigation strategies to keep issues of equality at the forefront of their work.
On October 21, 2015, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Achieve Pay Equity bill into law, further strengthening New York’s pay equity law that prohibits employers from discriminating in the payment of wages on the basis of sex. This new law enshrines the principles of CEDAW’s Article 11, and makes it relevant in the lives of women who are teachers, doctors, lawyers, and social workers in local communities. When victories such as this one are accomplished, it is important to relay their importance to all stakeholders so that those fighting for change can take stock in the progress we’ve made in the overall journey toward achieving equality for all in our society.
 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171 (available at https://treaties.un.org/pages/showdetails.aspx?objid=0800000280004bf5 and https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx)
 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Mar. 7, 1966, 660 U.N.T.S. 195 (available at https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=IV-2&chapter=4&clang=_en and https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cerd.aspx)
 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Dec. 18, 1979, 1249 U.N.T.S. 13 (available at https://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=IV-8&chapter=4&clang=_en and https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cedaw.aspx)
 New York State Division of Human Rights, Protecting and Furthering Equality in New York State, https://www.ny.gov, https://dhr.ny.gov/furthering-equality (last visited Nov. 12, 2021)