What a Trump Presidency Could Mean For Human Rights

By Sian Lea, Managing Director, Shiva Foundation 9 Nov 2016
Donald Trump. (Image Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

Donald Trump is now the President of the United States. We generally focus on human rights in the UK, but President Elect Trump’s promised policies are likely to affect rights protections the world over. 


So here we look at five of Trump’s statements from the past few months. Hold on to your hats.

But first, it’s worth asking – what does it mean to be the President of the US? Well, to put it in simple terms, Trump is now the head of state for one of the most powerful countries in the world.

The US has one of the largest economies in the world, second only to China. The President is the Commander-in-Chief of one of the largest and most expensive armies in the world, with control of the largest nuclear arsenal.

It is important to note that the UK human rights protections, through the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), do not apply to the US, but they can help us scrutinise some of Trump’s beliefs.

What Trump Said About Women

A woman at an anti-Trump protest in Washington. (Image Credit: Roya Ann Miller)

When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Anything you want. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.

Donald Trump

Trump has a track record of publicly undermining women, with the quote below just one example. Most recently, a leaked video exposed him using sexually aggressive language and describing assaulting women through his position of power.

These types of sexist and objectifying remarks demonstrate a disrespect for women and discrimination on the basis of sex. Internationally, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which was adopted by the UN in 1981 and has been ratified by the UK, sets out provisions for the protection and respect of women’s rights.

What Trump Said About Planned Parenthood

A protest in support of Planned Parenthood. (Image Credit: Wikicommons)

As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, I’m pro-life. I’m totally against abortion.

Donald Trump

Trump has stated that he would take away funding from Planned Parenthood, which he agrees provides crucial services to many women, on the basis that it provides abortions to women.

Abortion is a subject that is inextricably linked with the rights of women, their reproductive health and the right to bodily autonomy. In 1973 the US Supreme Court held a landmark decision in Roe v Wade, that found women to have the right to choose abortion.

This was seen as key for the preservation of women’s rights, personal freedom and privacy – the European Court of Human is moving towards the same position. Trump has predicted that this case would be overturned once he became president, because he would ensure pro-life justices sat on the Supreme Court who would favour pro-life judgments.

What Trump Said About Religion

A man prays in a mosque. (Image Credit: Rachid Oucharia / Unsplash)

Donald J Trump is calling for a total and complete shut-down of Muslims entering the United States.

This completely unjustified statement was made in the wake of a terrorist attack in the US in 2015. According to Trump it is known that ‘Muslims hate Americans, which justifies the need for database of all Muslims as well as a ban on them entering the country’.

He has watered down the statement in recent months, saying that Muslims should be subject to “extreme vetting” and says that Muslims should be “tracked” by law enforcement officials. It goes without saying that this is at odds with all of our human rights.

Article 14 of the ECHR sets out that the rights in the Convention should be enjoyed by everyone without discrimination. This means that people should not be discriminated against based on religion. Subjecting a portion of the population to specific treatments because of their religion would infringe this right. Article 8, which protects one’s right to private and family life might also be engaged by keeping a register of personal information for the Muslim population. Article 9 of the ECHR protects freedom of thought, conscience and religion and allows this right to be practiced in private or public. This right is similar to the US Constitutional right that protects against any prohibition of religious practice.

What Trump Said About Mexico

A Mexican flag. (Image Credit: Jorge Aguilar / Unsplash)

They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

Donald Trump

This statement was made in relation to Mexicans moving to the US. Trump has made a number of prejudicial statements about Latinos.

He has threatened to build a wall to keep Mexicans from entering the US, with the expectation that Mexico will pick up the tab.

The discrimination Trump has demonstrated towards women and Muslims also extends to Latinos. He has also stated that the wall will keep out Syrians seeking asylum, which would infringe on every human being’s right to seek asylum according to the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 3 of the ECHR means that countries cannot send people back to a country where they face a real risk of torture or degrading treatment.

What Trump Said About Torture

A man sits alone. (Image Credit: Noah Silliman / Unsplash)

I would bring [waterboarding] back. I would bring back strong interrogation.

Donald Trump

When asked about interrogating Isis members, Trump has unequivocally supported using interrogation methods like waterboarding to obtain information.

Waterboarding, which was used under the George W. Bush’s administration, has been declared a method of torture. Torture, as covered by Article 3 of the ECHR, is absolutely prohibited. President Obama has reversed the Bush era policy.

The UK and US intelligence services maintain a close relationship and there have been consistent allegations throughout the “War on Terror” that the UK’s security services were complicit in US ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques, for example in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

It is illegal for UK officials to be complicit in torture, even if they are not doing it themselves. If the US returns to using torture under President Trump, the UK may have to reassess its intelligence cooperation with the US.

For a list of President Trump’s recorded beliefs see here.

About The Author

Sian Lea Managing Director, Shiva Foundation

Sian is currently the managing director of Shiva Foundation, an anti-trafficking organisation. She has an MA in Human Rights from UCL and Graduate Diploma in Law. Previously she worked in anti-trafficking in Cambodia.

Sian is currently the managing director of Shiva Foundation, an anti-trafficking organisation. She has an MA in Human Rights from UCL and Graduate Diploma in Law. Previously she worked in anti-trafficking in Cambodia.