Women worldwide, September-October 2020

August 28, 2020

From the September-October 2020 issue of News & Letters

by Artemis

In July, Diana Russell–world-renowned Lesbian feminist activist, scholar of revolutionary studies, and author–died at age 81. Born in South Africa, she moved to the U.S. She authored, coauthored, or edited 17 groundbreaking books and numerous articles on forms of violence against women, apartheid, and nuclear weapons, linking all to patriarchy. In 1976, she organized the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women, a speak-out by 2,000 women from 40 countries. In 1976, she redefined and politicized “femicide” as “the killing of females by males because they are female.” One book inspired an ongoing anti-femicide movement in Latin America. Another was among the first exposing rape as a widespread “act of conformity to the ideals of masculinity” rather than a rare, deviant act. Writing the first scientific study on incest, she helped survivors with legal assistance. A founding member of Women Against Violence in Pornography and the Media, her books linked porn to male acceptance of rape and violence. She was arrested, sued, and physically attacked for civil disobedience on many issues.

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In April, the Hawai’i State Commission on the Status of Women of the Department of Human Services released “Building Bridges, Not Walking on Backs; a Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for COVID-19” in collaboration with the community and with national and international feminist and racial justice activist groups. The only feminist state recovery plan, it states, “it is clearer than ever that capitalism could not care for us during COVID-19,” which has disproportionately impacted women and other marginalized groups. It advises stimulus programs promoting gender and racial equity in “green jobs” and other higher wage jobs. The plan calls for an economy that “redresses inequalities and promotes values of social well-being.”

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In August, thousands of women across Turkey demonstrated against right-wing attempts to get the government to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, aka the Council of Europe Convention, signed in 2011 to promote the state’s role in combating domestic violence. Wearing protective masks, they chanted, “the choice is ours, the decision is ours, the streets are ours.” Signs had names of murdered women, reading, “The Istanbul Convention is born of women’s blood” and “We will not allow femicides.” Feride Eralp of Women are Stronger Together said, “Because they aren’t able to openly say they want women as their domestic slaves and the freedom to beat women at will, they latch on to LGBTI+ rights as a more ‘socially acceptable’ pretext to attack the convention, hoping rampant homophobia will do the trick.”

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In August, 600,000 of India’s one-million, all-female profession of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) went on strike for two days demanding better and timely pay and a legal status ensuring minimum wages. Providing healthcare to rural and lower-caste households, including immunization and maternal care, their duties now include tracking high-risk contacts of COVID-19 patients. They lack protective gear, including masks and hand sanitizer, have not been paid the promised virus-work bonus, and 20 have died.

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In August, in Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, authoritarian president of 26 years, had opposing candidates in an election arrested. One candidate’s wife took her husband’s place, with two female campaign managers of other candidates joining her. One stated, “The West won’t help, Russia won’t help, we can only help ourselves. Our female faces became a signal for all women–and for the men too–that every person should take responsibility.” After Lukashenko claimed victory amid accusations of voter fraud, tens of thousands of protesters demanding his resignation were met with police violence, random arrests and torture. (See “World in view: Belarus thaws in a world in flames,” this issue.) Tens of thousands of white-clad women waving flowers protested the violence with signs reading “My Vote Was Stolen” and “We Have No Leader, Everything Depends on Each One of Us.”

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In August, over 200 artists, writers, and actors and nearly two dozen human rights groups and film organizations signed a petition for the immediate release of activist and film editor Sanaa Seif. In Cairo last month, she and her family were attacked in front of guards at a prison while attempting to receive word from her brother, activist and blogger Aala Abd El Fattah. He has been held without trial since September 2019, having already completed an unjust five-year sentence. Upon reporting the attack to police, she was arrested for “terrorism,” “spreading false news,” “inciting terrorist crimes,” and “misuse of social media.” This public statement also demands the release of tens of thousands unjustly detained in Egypt.

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