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Women in Poland took part in a national day of strike action to defend abortion rights

Women fight back against violence and cuts

Sinead Daly reports

November 25th marked the start of the annual 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women. Unfortunately, in the year of 2016 – women and men still need to campaign and organise to end the wide spread prevalence of gender based violence.

  • 58,104 – is the number of reported incidents of domestic abuse in Scotland last year
  • 2 – the number of women in the UK murdered every week at the hands of their partner or ex-partner
  • 10,273 – the number of reported sex offences in 2015/16 a 53% per cent rise from 2006/07. 43% of these crimes were against women under the age of 18.
  • 29% of 16-18 year old girls say they have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school
  • 59% of girls and young women aged 13-21 said in 2014 that they had faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college in the past year.

The recent Ched Evans case, where the sexual history of the victim was allowed to be heard, has raised serious concerns among women’s rights organisations, with many arguing that this ruling has put us back 30 years.

It’s not just the impact of the ruling on this young woman. It will have untold impact on women’s confidence of reporting sexual crimes in the future. We already know that far to much focus is centred on the behaviour of women who have been victims of sexual crimes; how much did she drink, why did she invite him home, what was she wearing, the list is endless, with little, if any, attention to the behaviour of men who commit such vile acts.

Most women choose not to report the crimes. This court decision will do little to reassure women in coming forward it the future!

These numbers don’t relay the horror, fear and impact of these experiences. And yet they are just the tip of the iceberg. Most women do not report domestic and sexual crimes to the police.

The expansion of the internet and mobile phone technology has enabled the Porn industry to expand its businesses. It’s now a major industry with an estimated worth of $25bn in annual profits and it accounts for 30% of all internet traffic. The consequences are alarming. The industry and its cheerleaders would have us believe that this is women being sexually empowered and this is what gender equality looks like. These messages are so pervasive that for many young people this is what many now believe sexual relations should be. It is not surprising, therefore, that we are seeing increasing levels of ‘peer on peer’ sexual harassment and sexual violence/abuse among young people.

Fighting Back

There’s an increasing willingness of women taking direct action against gender specific oppression. The magnificent general strike of 6 million women in Poland demanding the reversal of the banning of abortion is one example. In Ireland tens of thousands of men and women are demanding the government act to implement the woman’s right to choose.

The Socialist Party in Ireland is campaigning to repeal the eighth amendment, which enshrines an abortion ban into the Irish constitution. One of our TDs (MPs), Ruth Coppinger, is moving this amendment in the Irish parliament in November.

Across Latin America, we’ve seen massive demonstrations against sexual violence in places like Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, and Colombia. We need to build a strong movement of women and men to fight to end the gender pay gap, gender inequality and gender based violence in all its forms.