In 1999, the UN established November 25 as an international day for the elimination of violence against women. However, after 23 years, male violence has not only not diminished, but is growing in a terrifying way.
This cannot continue. We reject living permanently in fear! No more waiting for the “good will” of governments and bourgeois institutions to put an end to violence. It is already more than proven that the thousands of declarations in favor of women are nothing more than a distraction. The end of machista violence requires a forceful response in the streets from the entire working class and its organizations with women at the forefront. We must demand concrete measures while we fight to destroy the source of all oppression and exploitation, capitalism. Let’s follow the example of the Iranian, Ukrainian and Sudanese women who have become symbols of resistance and struggle for workers all over the world.
Rape, aggression, mutilation, harassment, forced marriages. Violence of all kinds committed both in the private and public sphere, by acquaintances and strangers and in innumerable circumstances and contexts. No woman is safe. According to the UN, 1 in 3 women has experienced or will experience some form of violence in her lifetime.
Violence starts early. In the European Union, half of women report having experienced sexual harassment as young as 15 years of age. In Central and Southern Africa, 40% of young women marry before the age of 18. In Brazil, where more than 66,000 rapes were recorded in 2021 alone, 61% of the victims were girls as young as 13.
The most dramatic face of this violence is femicides, which occur every eleven minutes. Every eleven minutes a woman is murdered in some region of the planet for the simple fact of being a woman. Not to mention the corrective rapes committed against lesbians, bisexuals, and transwomen, often committed with cruelty.
Most of the time the aggressor is an acquaintance. Intimate femicides, committed by partners or ex-partners, represent 38% of all crimes of this nature. By way of comparison, only 5% of male murders are committed by a partner. This type of femicide has increased among pregnant women and women with newborn children in recent years according to the WHO. The negligence of the state and governments, by action or omission, makes them accomplices in the violence and the death of women.
Machismo and capitalism
Capitalism imposes degrading conditions and violence on working and poor women. In low and lower-middle income countries, it is estimated that 37% of women live in situations of physical and/or sexual violence committed by their partners, and in some of these countries the prevalence is one victim for every two women. The economic, health and environmental crisis and the direct and indirect consequences of the war in Ukraine acutely impacts the lives of women and other oppressed sectors. In times of economic crisis and wars like the current one, violence against the oppressed reaches brutal levels. And it is not by chance that domestic violence exploded in the pandemic. The machismo rooted in bourgeois capitalist society makes the home one of the most dangerous environments for women.
It is not that violence only impacts the poor, but economic and social inequalities are compounded because they hinder and, in some cases, even make it impossible for women to escape the cycle of violence. Factors such as employment and income to support their children should they need to leave a violent home are crucial. But in a world where more than half (51.5%) of all working women are out of the labor market, and during the current capitalist crisis where women’s employment is the first to be sacrificed, one can understand why it is so difficult for women to break away from violence.
This situation is even worse for black women because the combination of machismo and racism imposes even more humiliation, more poverty, more inequality and more violence.
The same can be said of the adjustment plans and social counter-reforms. These policies are implemented by governments around the world, be they the right or the self-declared leftists who govern according to bourgeois and imperialist interests. Cuts in public spending affect programs to combat violence and support for women victims, particularly for the poorest who need it most.
The lack of political interest and concrete measures to combat violence against women is no coincidence. The oppression of women, with all its components, including inequality, objectification, violence, etc., is part of the capitalist logic and serves for its maintenance. The reproduction of sexist ideologies and behaviors keeps the class divided and ensures bourgeois domination. This division increases profits through the overexploitation of women workers and the maintenance of a reserve army that puts pressure on wages and the standard of living of the class. On the other hand, the naturalization of women’s domestic labor allows the bourgeoisie to save costs by reproducing paid labor through the unpaid exploited work performed by women in the family sphere.
Oppression and violence against women are very profitable in themselves. Prostitution, pornography and all forms of sexual exploitation of women, including minors, where sexuality and the body are transformed into mere commodities, generate multi-billion-dollar profits. The so-called “sex industry” is one of the most lucrative businesses in the world, comparable only to the arms industry or drug trafficking. A business that is growing at the same pace as job insecurity and poverty of the working class, and in which different state apparatuses are often involved.
Understanding this dimension of oppression and its connection with the capitalist system is fundamental to give women’s struggles against macho violence a correct, class and anti-system perspective. This is not a struggle of “genders” or only of women, but of the entire working class and its organizations. We can start by not making this agenda invisible or relegating it to specific dates but organizing an active and daily campaign among workers against violence, sexist behaviors and culture, and supporting and encouraging women to organize self-defense.
Concrete measures are also necessary on the part of the state and we must fight for each of them. It is necessary to demand that governments carry out broad educational campaigns against machismo and violence in the media, schools, neighborhoods and workplaces. Crimes committed against women be rigorously investigated and punished. Services to assist victims must be available. And economic and social guarantees must ensure that women be able to break the cycle of violence. Declarations are not enough; only through real policies is it possible to truly reduce the rates of violence against women.
Follow the lead of Iranian, Ukrainian, and Sudanese women
In recent months, we have seen important struggles where women have played a vanguard role or been direct protagonists, encouraging working women around the world to continue organizing the struggle against oppression and violence.
Iranian women are leading the uprising against the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman killed by the “moral police.” Her death has become a fuse of women’s struggle for life and freedom, and against the regime of the ayatollahs and the Raisi government. The Ukrainian women’s struggle is also exemplary. They are a part of the popular resistance and have so far succeeded in deterring the Russian invasion, facing in this process the oppression and violence of the enemy army, but often also that of their own comrades. We also look to the Sudanese women, who, one year after the coup d’état in the country, bravely continue to risk their lives and freedom in the struggle against the military regime.
Women throughout the Americas have also set an example of struggle and resistance. They are mobilizing for the right to abortion, with successes and setbacks. Regardless, they refuse to stay silent and respond to male violence with increasingly radical mobilizations.
November 25 was established in honor of the Mirabal sisters, assassinated by the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. We want to rescue this spirit of the date by expressing all our solidarity with the struggle of women in Iran, Ukraine, and Sudan. Today, they are a symbol of the struggle of women workers around the world against oppression and violence. That is why on this 25N we call for all to fill the streets around the world to say enough of violence. For the end of capitalism and for the construction of socialism!
International Workers League, November 2022