In the last decade we have witnessed a number of historic women’s strikes across the world. From the #NiUnaMenos movement in Latin America to the fight for abortion rights in Poland, women are fighting against the inherently patriarchal capitalist system.
In Glasgow in October 2018 more than 8,000 women from the GMB, UNISON and Unite Trade Unions took to the streets to demand equal pay. Women-dominated jobs paid significantly less than traditionally male-dominated job roles due to various reasons, including the availability of split shifts and overtime. This was believed to be the largest ever equal pay strike in the UK, and it paid off – they won over £500 million in pay outs to the women employees affected.
The erosion of hard-won rights is widespread and damaging. Covid-19 is being used to attack women’s control of their own bodies, both reproductive rights and physical safety. Many countries have reported a significant increase in violence towards women since the lockdown began. In China’s Hubei province, at the height of lockdown in February, domestic abuse reports tripled, and the femicide rate in Mexico almost quadrupled during quarantine, whilst in Brazil domestic abuse reports went up by 40%. People’s access to abortion has been curtailed in many countries (USA, Italy, Poland, for example) since the outbreak of the pandemic. This disproportionately affects working class people, who may not be able to afford to travel the distances required, or to travel to another country, to access an abortion, leaving them with an unwanted pregnancy or driving them to dangerous and illegal backstreet abortions.
Women’s self-organisation, and class mobilisation in defence of women’s rights, is necessary not just to make progress towards equality, but to defend the rights that our predecessors fought for and won. How is this best achieved? The right to protest is being curtailed to avoid the spread of the virus, allowing governments worldwide to introduce laws that infringe on women’s rights. Attacks, often violent and misogynistic, against women trade unionists are common in many parts of the world. Anti-trade union legislation remains on the statute books in the UK, making our traditional methods of organisation harder. Yet women are fighting back – as in Glasgow, as in the #MeToo movement, as in Poland and Latin America.
‘From Brazil to Poland: Feminist strikes, a mass women’s movement and a socialist feminist approach to struggle’ will be one of 18 discussions at the Revolutionary Ideas Online Festival of resistance and Socialism
11am Sunday 29 November