International Appeal on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
“On this day, 25 November, we unite forces with all women in the world to eliminate all form of violence. Our main concern is the fight for freedom, equality, justice, solidarity and, above all, peace.”
Continental Coordinators – World Women Conferences Representative – World March of Women Africa
In West Africa numerous women are caught up in battles. They do all they can to support the demands for better living conditions for everyone.
Women are the people most responsible for the survival of families and thus particularly vulnerable because the have to provide the bare necessities, also during battles. Despite all the risks, they have do carry out their activities accordingly. They organise themselves.
In Kenya many young people lose their lives in the fight against government troops. Women desperately seek platforms for a solution. The political situation demands that women raise their voices against oppression. In Nairobi a large peace demonstration denounced murder. But police and the military continue to kill. In Sudan we see that the decision of the people for independence subjects many women to great violence. In Somalia militarism remains a threat with terrorist attacks and bombs. It is not possible for women to gather together. Rape is used as a mass war weapon.
In Ethiopia there is a silent war. Ethnic minorities seek refuge in neighbouring Kenya and Eritrea. In Rwanda the political class abuses women’s rights. Diane Rwigara, who stood as a candidate in the presidential election, expects a lengthy imprisonment
In Bangladesh, Asia, patriarchal structures determine women’s lives. Sexual discrimination is deeply rooted. Harassment of women is culturally accepted, tolerated and legitimated. Violence against women is everywhere. Women and girls encounter violence because of dowries and there are frequent cases of rape, acid attacks, stalking and sexual harassment. A total of 109 cases of rapes are known to have taken place from January to September 2017. Six of the girls committed suicide and five were murdered by the rapists. Rape victims are stigmatised and usually treated as guilty by the police. Most of the victims and their families bear the shame in silence and do not seek justice. But young women workers are organising themselves. For two years almost 5 million textile workers, female and male, from Bangladesh have been fighting for an increase in the minimum wage. Leaders of their trade union, the Garment Workers Trade Union Centre (GWTUC) were arrested, many workers simply detained without warrant. After the strike 2500 workers, both men and women, were fired. Factory owners and the government work hand in hand and try to oppress the movement by persecuting trade union leaders and activists as well as the workers. False charges are brought in order to sabotage the continuing movement for fair wages,
In West Bengal, India, 10,000 men and women have been protesting for a year against the building of a power substation and the acquisition of their land. Police and military have surrounded the area. Women in particular are subject to violence.
In the Middle East millions of women are confronted with different types of patriarchal violence. War, occupation, expulsion, abduction and enslavement determine the lives of women in the Middle East. But they do not just see themselves as victims of violence but as protagonists in the development of a social system based on democracy, pluralism and freedom, shown above in Rojava. In Northern Kurdistan (Turkey) the state has closed down almost all Kurdish women’s organisations and imprisoned hundreds of female politicians, activists and journalists. In Southern Kurdistan (Iraq) there has been an increase in the number of women murdered and women who have taken their own lives. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are still in refugee camps where women are exposed to sexual assault and health care is very poor. In Iran they are not only confronted with political oppression but also with deeply rooted sexism and economic difficulties. The number of child brides is absolutely catastrophic, and there are forced marriages of children under the age of 10.
In September thousands of Palestinian and Israeli women started a two-week peace march with the aim of preventing a war and reaching an agreement. In Lebanon women successfully fought against the notorious “rape law” under which a rapist could be exempt from punishment if he married his victim. There is no law that forbids sexual harassment and that is why Lebanese women have started a new campaign called “It is not ok”.
In Latin America women are active for life and health, against poverty and for work. Poor healthcare means that many women still die in childbirth. This particularly affects the rural indigenous population. The increasing and brutalised violence against women affects women in all social groups and classes. In Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Columbia, Ecuador – everywhere women suffer physical and psychic violence which can even result in murder. Every day a woman is violently killed. “Ni Una Menos“ is a feminist movement that campaigns against gender-based violence and has spread across several Latin American countries.
In Spain 40.000 women demonstrated in Madrid against domestic violence resulting in death and adopted the motto “Ni Una Menos” of their Latin American sisters. In Brussels more than 1000 young women demonstrated for safe and legal abortion in the whole of Europe. “My Body, my choice”! Poland is experiencing repeated mass protests by women against the government and further tightening of the abortion law. They demand the separation f state and church. Also in Ireland. The “Me too“ campaign focuses on pervasive sexualised violence. In France women are organising public campaigns. In Germany the mass dismissal of Air Berlin staff is a clear demonstration of structural violence. – 8000 employees, many of them women, are being thrown out while the former CEO Thomas Winkelmann will receive an annual salary of €950,000 plus bonuses. In Turkey hundreds of women took part in a march dubbed “Don’t mess with my outfit” to protest against the violence and animosity they face over demands to dress more conservatively. Last November women successfully protested and the government withdrew a planned law that would pardon rapists if they married the victims.
Responsible: Continental coordinators of the World Women’s Conference and world