The United States is bound, by a 70-year-old treaty, not to deny access to those traveling on official business to the United Nations headquarters in New York. That hasn't stopped the Trump Administration from denying visas to dozens of women who were to attend the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women conference.

Of those barred from entry into the United States, women from a number of African and Middle Eastern countries currently under Donald Trump's travel ban – including Sudan, Zimbabwe, Syria and Iran – were disproportionately affected. Women’s rights campaigners are petitioning the US Mission to the UN to streamline visa procedures for those traveling to the United States specifically to visit the UN.

"We have discovered that the U.S. State Department in some consulates and embassies have been requiring such documents as marriage certificates, proof of property ownership, letters stating employment status, proof of finances and even proof of birth certificates or proof showing that they have children as part of the requirements needed for a visa to be issued in order attend these U.N. Sessions," the petition states.

However, a State Department official told The Hill that the U.S. was committed to upholding the requirements of the UN International Headquarters Agreement. The official added that the department could not discuss specific visa cases.

Problems related to visa applications are not a new phenomenon for the Trump Administration. More than 50 visas were rejected for the conference in 2018, according to data from the International Service for Human Rights. "We can only assume there are more unreported cases of denial," said Madeleine Sinclair, director at the ISHR's New York office.

At a  town hall meeting, Farirai Gumbonzvanda, a delegate from Zimbabwe, asked U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres why some of the very women  from rural areas who had been used by the U.N. “on banners, as footnotes, and as case studies” had been barred from coming to the conference to speak about their experiences. Among the 41 women denied entry for the conference were lawyers, activistis, reproductive health care practitioners and NGO workers.

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