by Sayaka Matsuoka
1. Extended LGBTQIA rights
While the recent Supreme Court decision is a huge milestone for gay rights, it also serves as a reminder that the United States has a long way to go with regards to the spectrum of gender equality. Those who identify as queer, transgender, intersex and asexual still have yet to be recognized and have laws that protect them like many other countries do already.
For example, Malta has a law that allows citizens to identify with any gender of their choosing and to be protected by law at all times. The law goes as far as saying that transgender individuals do not need to provide any proof of surgery, hormonal therapy, or other treatment to identify with a specific gender. The country also forbids doctors from deciding the sex of a child via surgery on intersex children until they can give consent.
In Australia, intersex individuals can choose “X” instead of male or female on passports and transgender individuals can choose to mark male or female with a doctor’s note.
Similarly, Germany has given the option to parents to leave the gender blank for intersex infants.
2. Paid maternal/parental leave
The United States is the only developed country in the world without paid parental leave. While most countries give at least three months of paid leave, the United States gives three months of unpaid time off due to the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993. In the meantime, Finland’s new mothers are getting 167 weeks of paid leave.
3. Stricter gun control laws
Thanks to the Second Amendment, the United States is the gun capital of the world. No other country has more guns per capita, with the United States boasting almost 300 million civilian firearms in circulation. And it’s been proven time and again that more guns means more homicides.
While the United States isn’t the only nation with a history with gun violence, most other developed countries reacted swiftly in the aftermath of tragedies like the Newtown, Conn. school shooting. Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom all implemented stricter laws in the wake of mass shootings and now require more regulated licenses while many ban semiautomatic and automatic weapons. And Japan, which arguably has the strictest gun control laws in the world, also has the lowest gun-homicide rate with only one in 10 million.
4. Universal healthcare
While the controversial Affordable Care Act is a good start, the United States is nowhere near where most other developed countries are with regards to healthcare. According to a 2014 study by the Commonwealth Fund, the United States ranked last in a group of 11 countries in quality, efficiency and health outcomes. But it’s not because we don’t pay enough. In fact, about a third of health care costs are spent on bureaucratic overhead. Wasted funds coupled with expensive practices and uninsured or underinsured patients makes for a bad product.
5. Free tuition
While the issue of free higher education is not a simple one, there are several steps the United States can take to make it a reality. Much like Germany, Sweden and many other European countries have done, the United States would inevitably have to increase taxes but could also benefit from decreasing military spending. Or we could all just study abroad.