- Bella Guerra
How the BIFP Political Action Committee is Advocating for Bipartisan Pro-Women Legislation
In a political climate where many young women are still struggling to be heard, the Bipartisan Feminist Project continues to find new and unique ways to advocate for women across partisan lines. Formed in August, the Political Action Committee is the most recent addition to the BIFP team and is comprised of students who attended the Bipartisan Advocacy Program, a workshop to teach students about advocacy for pro-women legislation.
Members of the Political Action Committee include Erika DeLesseps from Millburn High School in New Jersey, Audrey Poon from Brooklyn Technical High School in New York, and Yunilza Fernandez from High School of American Studies at Lehman College in New York. The committee is headed by Veronica Tadross, the founder of BIFP. Together, members of the committee draft and propose legislation based on research and advice from legislators such as Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, and the Head of the Bronx Department of Education and Youth Services Monica Major.
Comprehensive women’s rights legislation is often obstructed by partisan tension, indicative of fundamental differences between many Americans surrounding the equal rights of women. According to Pew Research center, about three quarters of Democrats say the country hasn’t gone far enough in giving women equal rights while only a third of Republicans believe the country hasn’t made enough progress. The Political Action Committee will therefore tackle the challenge of proposing comprehensive and effective women’s rights legislation that reaches across the partisan divide.
One such piece of legislation is the Enough is Enough Act in New York, which was signed into law in 2015 and claims to be the most “aggressive policy in the nation” to fight against sexual assault on college campuses. The act created sexual violence police forces, established sexual assault data collection, and took other measures to ensure decrease the rates of sexual assault on college campuses.
Despite the policy, research by the committee revealed that sexual assault cases on college campuses are often adjudicated by student panels deprived of comprehensive access to medical information and that such panels grant preferential treatment to student athletes accused of sexual assault. Data collection of information regarding sexual assault has also been delayed because of underfunding in the State Education Department.
Such flaws in the Enough is Enough Act raised concerns among the Political Action Committee, especially considering the severity of sexual assault and its relation to sexism. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that at least 11 percent of all students, male or female, will be sexually asaulted during their college years and that the vast majority of those attacks will go unreported. RAINN also reports that women aged 18-24 who are college students are 3 times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence. In 2018 alone, the state Education Department of New York reported nearly 4,000 sexual misconduct complaints while only 66 students who were accused of misconduct were thrown out of school.
In order to secure the safety of women in New York, the committee is suggesting an Amendment to the Enough is Enough Act which entails stricter adjudication standards and greater funding to the State Education Department. These modifications will allow the State Education Department to enforce a fair and aggressive sexual assault policy and ensure greater justice in the adjudication process.
The second major project the Political Action Committee has undertaken is the creation of a Youth Gender Commission, a commission of students in high school and college who advise government officials on women’s rights legislation. This will be the worlds first Youth Gender Commission and will aid in effectively addressing the needs of students regarding women’s rights legislation.
The United Nation has stressed the importance of uniting the youth and gender movements and empower young women and men as partners in achieving gender equality. The Youth Gender Commission proposed by the Political Action Committee will engage students aged 16-24 in shaping legislation to directly address constituent needs. Students from each district will also be awarded the opportunity to work with legislators to learn about legislation and make appropriate recommendations.
The Political Action Committee has begun the process of intoroducing these projects into the legislature by holding a presentation for several New York Legislators on December 8 to recruit legislators to facilitate the implementation of these proposals. If the proposals are passed on the New York State level, a New York Senator or Assemblyperson will propose the resolution.
The committee will also be launching an informative video about the Youth Gender Commission and opening a waitlist for students to apply to join.