Each year the 8th of March, feminists and human rights activists gather to shed light on our continued struggle for equality and to celebrate our progress.
In recent years we have seen the backtracking of human rights in several European countries, specifically in relation to the right to life, liberty and security of personal, sexual and reproductive health and rights. This is connected to conservative, populist and fascist ideas that have spread rampantly since the economic crisis.
Across Europe, the right to safe abortion is being questioned. Abortion is banned in Ireland and Malta, and the public debate about re-introducing restrictions to abortion is a reality in several countries, such as in Poland as well as in Italy, France, Romania, Belgium, Spain.
In Romania, lawmakers are looking at ways to restrict sexual and reproductive health education in school. In Italy, sexual and reproductive health education is not institutionalised in the national school system. This directly affects young women and men and their right to receive sexual and reproductive health information and education.
Further, violence against women is a daily threat to European women, including domestic violence and femicide. In some European countries, namely Italy and France, one woman every 3 days is killed by her boyfriend, husband, partner. One in three women in the EU has experienced physical and/or sexual violence.
IGLYO and YFE urge the European countries to ratify the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and take immediate action to counter violence against women, non-binary, intersex and trans persons’.
Lesbian, bisexual and queer women face specific types of violence and discrimination pertaining to both sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, leading to social exclusion and poorer mental health. Transwomen face the highest levels of violence and are often forced into poverty due to social stigma and discrimination related to employment. Sexism, homo- and transphobia are interconnected and hinder women, non-binary, intersex and trans persons’ access to human rights and equal treatment in similar but also different ways. We have seen more examples of these efforts to hinder women, trans, intersex and non-binary persons to access their human rights throughout Europe.
Young people are specifically vulnerable too as they have less means to protect themselves from violations and are often dependent on their family or others for their survival. Young people’s access to and knowledge about rights are absolutely fundamental to the realisation of equality and non-discrimination.
We as feminists and women’s rights advocates must be inclusive and realise the diversity of persons that struggle against gender based violence and discrimination, and approach equality from an intersectional and norm critical point of view. If we don’t, we will only succeed in leaving our sisters and siblings behind. The term “women” must always include all persons who identify as women, also women with trans experience.
IGLYO and YFE recognise the backlash to our fight for equal rights, but we also encourage the international solidarity seen throughout Europe and the world when our rights are being challenged. We also recognise a willingness from many for the feminist movement to be a truly intersectional movement, where women and non-binary persons of different socioeconomic, ethnic and religious backgrounds and of different sexual orientations and gender expressions, bodily diversity and sex characteristics work together and challenge each other in constructive ways. We welcome this development and believe that our movements and fight for human rights will be strengthened by our efforts.