This year we will once again take to the streets on 25 November to denounce the terrible violence that women suffer all over the world. On this day we will remember the Mirabal sisters who were assassinated by the dictator Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and, in their names, we have appropriated this date to shout Stop Sexist Violence!

By the Women’s Secretariat of the IWL-FI

Violence in the world

Violence against women – that was already brutal before the COVID-19 health crisis – has exacerbated and taken qualitative leaps in this 19-months pandemic.

The WHO stated that: “Across their lifetime, 1 in 3 women, around 736 million, are subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner – a number that has remained largely unchanged over the past decade. This violence starts early: 1 in 4 young women (aged 15-24 years) who have been in a relationship will have already experienced violence by an intimate partner by the time they reach their mid-twenties.” [1]

Rates of violence vary and increase as countries become poorer. Those most at risk are young, black and indigenous women, and diverse women, who are also the targets of lesbian, bisexual and transphobic hatred.

For working women, this situation is compounded by economic violence, which has surpassed historic levels. According to the latest UN report “the pandemic will push 96 million people into extreme poverty by 2021, 47 million of whom are women and girls.

Since the start of the pandemic, in Europe and Central Asia, 25 per cent of self-employed women have lost their jobs, compared to 21 per cent of men –– a trend that is expected to continue as unemployment rises. Projections from the International Labour Organization suggest the equivalent of 140 million full-time jobs may be lost due to COVID-19; and women’s employment is 19 per cent more at risk than men.

Women are overrepresented in many of the industries hardest hit by COVID-19, such as food service, retail and entertainment. For example, 40 per cent of all employed women – 510 million women globally – work in hard-hit sectors, compared to 36.6 per cent of employed men.” [2]

While we come from processes of triumph in achieving legal abortion in several Latin American countries, sexual violence and the impediment to family planning by governments remain an undeniable fact of violence. Deaths from clandestine abortions, or the imprisonment and punishment of those who have abortions, are still very high.

Maternal mortality rates soared worldwide, doubling in some countries – as is the case in Colombia – and in others they tripled, due to deaths from COVID, but mainly because of unwanted pregnancies due to the abrupt drop in contraceptive services, which led to an increase in unsafe abortions, and to the deficient prenatal care resulting from the closure of maternity hospitals and the diversion of resources to attend to COVID patients. These deaths hit the poorest, most rural, racialised women and thousands of girls.

It’s not the pandemic, it’s capitalism

The Women Economic Forum 2021 [3] was recently held, where UN women’s representatives came to the terrible conclusion that “the pandemic has led to a setback of more than 18 years in women’s labour participation in Latin America and the Caribbean”. But it is important to say that it is not diseases or natural catastrophes that set us back in our rights.

The situation of women was already terrible before the pandemic because this declining capitalist system of exploitation and oppression only works to guarantee profits for the employers and not to take care of our lives.

The vast majority of governments have reduced budgets for attention to male violence, closed programmes and even denied priority medical attention to abortion. Governments, however progressive, spent most of the public budget on guaranteeing corporate profits and not on addressing gender-based violence or the social needs that were aggravated by the pandemic. Reports of violence have increased exponentially and even a fist signal has been created to identify an emergency situation at the international level.

Unemployment, hunger and confinements without available subsidies and basic services are the responsibility of bourgeois governments, not the virus. That women had to lose their jobs, give up their studies to take care of the family and the sick in this pandemic is the responsibility of governments and employers.

Domestic workers lost almost 70 per cent of their jobs, and the imbalance of domestic and care work increased to crippling levels. Similarly, the corporate preference to shift work to the virtual world has pushed the poorest women out of the labour market, as they have no tools or access to internet services. Today, the digital gender gap is a new indicator of male violence.

In the face of such a global situation, violence against migrant, refugee and indigenous women has been expressed even more starkly. Examples are the brutal repression on the southern border of the USA, in besieged Palestine without access to vaccines, the rapes carried out by the occupying troops in Haiti or in Afghanistan, where women are now changing oppressors in the hands of the terrible Taliban.

We need a socialist revolution to put an end to this murderous system, which uses oppression suffered by women to divide us as a class and increase our exploitation, to give us less pay than men, that we, the unemployed, should be the ones to push for the lowering of the labour earning of the working class as a whole. Because capitalism also neglects the domestic and care tasks that it should guarantee collectively, placing them on the backs of working and poor women.

Stop lying about empowerment!

The numbers are appalling, the real stories behind them are heartbreaking, and yet world leaders who call themselves feminists continue to insist that the way out is to have more women in positions of power.

The terrible mismanagement of the pandemic by governments and international agencies is not because they are male-dominated, it is because they serve the interests of big business, and profit comes before the lives of humanity. Vaccine apartheid in the world responds to the voracity of the laboratories and imperialist rapacity and not to the gender composition of their boards of directors.

While we are in favour of parity and equal opportunities, we do not believe in an individual way out, that the struggle of “women against men” or that bourgeois bodies and governments run by women will give us the liberation we need. As they themselves have shown, it is the working and poorest women who suffer the worst consequences and expressions of sexist violence, and where women rule, the conditions of oppression have not changed qualitatively.

The common struggle for a socialist revolution with the working class, with the oppressed sectors and all those who suffer the violence of this system is the only one that can bring us closer to a better situation.

Class unity against oppression and exploitation

We have borne the burden, we have increased domestic tasks, we have taken care of the children, the elderly, the sick, we have been confined with our aggressors, we have continued to be raped, killed or beaten because of our gender identity. But we say enough is enough, we take to the streets and we continue to fight.

On this 25 November, we’re going to take to the streets with the Polish women who continue to demand the right to abortion, with the Cuban women who want democratic rights and freedom for political prisoners, we’ll stand with the Afghan and Palestinian women. We’ll fight and we must continue to fight with our class, with the millions of workers who can no longer bear the burden that the rich want them to carry.

We do not trust in the feminine faces they put on the governments, nor in the electoral traps that only favour the powerful. We trust in our own strength, in knowing that to put a definitive end to sexist violence and oppression we must fight against this system that exploits and oppresses us.

But in the struggle against sexism and oppression, we want and need the support of working men, because sexism that oppresses, humiliates and over-exploits women serves both to divide and weaken the class and to increase the exploitation of all workers. In this sense, we are against all gender views that oppose the battle for men to break with their own sexism and come and fight with us.

The struggle for our rights has to be of the whole working class, so that our comrades also stop reproducing sexism and that our organisations fight this scourge within us so that we have a place in the common struggle against capitalism. The fight is not a separate fight, it is a common fight against sexism within our class. There is no way out to end oppression without overthrowing this capitalist system that oppresses and destroys us.

To achieve an emergency plan for sexist violence, we must fight all austerity plans and governments that apply them. On 25 November, we will take to the streets, we will take safety measures, but we will not stop demanding the right to live.

Enough of male violence!

Contraceptives to avoid abortion, legal abortion to avoid death! Quality prenatal care!

No more oppression and exploitation!

Emergency plan to combat COVID-19 and male violence!

For a drastic increase in funding for prevention, care and protection services for victims! No to public debt payment!

Notes:

[1] – https://www.who.int/news/item/09-03-2021-devastatingly-pervasive-1-in-3-women-globally-experience-violence

[2] – https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/9/feature-covid-19-economic-impacts-on-women

[3] – El coronavirus generó un retroceso de más de 18 años en la participación laboral de las mujeres (latinoamericapiensa.com)