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5 Women's Rights Movements Happening Around the World

There's still a long way to go for women's equality, but movements around the world are striving for progress.

Since 1987 March has been designated Women's History Month in the United States.

But since at least 1914, March 8th has been recognized as International Women's Day. Originally associated with movements pushing for women's suffrage, the meaning of March 8th changed in 1917 in Petrograd, Russia when female textile workers used the occasion to go on strike, demonstrating against the czarist system and their country's devastating involvement in World War I. It marked the beginning of the Russian Revolution.

It would be an understatement to say that women have always played a big role in pushing society forward. And the more of a role they've been able to wrestle from patriarchal control, the more they have been able to push for that progress.

With that in mind, let's take the occasion of Women's History Month and the recent celebration of International Women's Day to look at some major women's movements that are working to push the world forward in 2021.Polish women's rights protest

Polish women's rights protest

In January a ruling from Poland's Constitutional Court went into effect, labelling nearly all abortions in the predominantly Catholic country unconstitutional.

While there were already harsh restrictions placed on abortion access in Poland, 98% of legal abortions within Poland prior to this ruling were provided on the grounds of severe fetal abnormalities. Now the only legal instances for terminating a pregnancy are cases involving sexual assault and instances in which the mother's life is in danger.

The ban is unpopular among Polish citizens but is aligned with the interests of the Right-wing Law and Justice party, to which the members of the court are considered to be loyal. Since that time, thousands of women have taken part in the Women's Strike, taking to the streets of Warsaw to protest for their bodily autonomy and demand unfettered access to abortion services.

For International Women's Day, strike leaders organized a Women's Day Without Compromises Protest. As Klementyna Suchanow, one of the movement's leaders, put it: "We are under attack by religious radicals, and this is an international movement. So we women in different countries, we need to face it and fight against it. It's something that is happening to all of us: to Argentinians, to Americans, to Poles, to Croatians."

Mexico: Green Tide and a #MeToo Scandal

Mexico abortions: Pro-choice activists lead social media campaign www.youtube.com

Speaking of Argentina and abortion, the recent passage of legislation legalizing abortion through the 14th week of pregnancy has sent ripples throughout Latin America. Calling themselves the Green Tide or the Green Wave, protesters in that country pushed politicians in Buenos Aires to acknowledge their rights and have become an inspiration for an expanding women's movement throughout the region.

In Mexico, that has included a protest movement pushing for improved abortion access, especially in the 30 states where it is currently subject to harsh restrictions — access is more available in Oaxaca and in the State of Mexico. But it has also melded with some other issues, including protests of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's continued support of Félix Salgado Macedonio.

Salgado Macedonia is a candidate for governor of the state of Guerrero who has been accused of sexual misconduct and assault by at least five women in incidents spanning decades.

Iran: The Right to Leave

Samira Zagari

In recent years women have been a big part of protests in Iran. In addition to protest movements against various sexist social restrictions — like a dress code requiring women to wear head scarves in public — women were deeply involved in the bloody November 2019 protests, in which the government crackdown killed hundreds.

In recent weeks the story of alpine ski coach Samira Zargari — whose husband barred her from joining her team at the world championship in Italy last month — sparked a social media backlash, with women asserting that a husband should not be allowed to control their wives' travel and careers. An online petition to reform Iran's regulations on women leaving the country quickly amassed tens of thousands of signatures, amid a broader push to end the country's oppressive treatment of women.

Turkey: Violence Against Women

Istanbul protest

In Istanbul's Taksim Square in Turkey, around 1000 women gathered for International Women's Day, despite Erdogan's government shutting down public transit in the area. They were there to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and to protest their government's lack of action to address violence against women.

The rate at which Turkish women have been murdered has reportedly doubled over the last decade. Many of these deaths involve domestic violence and "honor" killings that are often treated leniently by Turkish courts. As one protester Sumeyye Kose put it, "We are oppressed under the male power every day. Women's murderers are rewarded by not being punished."

Japan: A Voice for Women in Leadership

Japanese Lawmakers in white

In 2020 the World Economic Forum ranked Japan 121st out of 153 countries in terms of gender parity. Women make up only about 10% of the membership of Japan's parliament — far lower than the underwhelming global average of 25-30% — and on average Japanese women earn about half as much as Japanese men.

Given this context, the outrage was particularly deserved when Yoshiro Mori — then chief of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee — recently commented that meetings with women "drag on," claiming that women talk to0 much. Since then female lawmakers in Japan's Constitutional Democratic Party organized a demonstration against Mori, wearing white and donning white roses in homage to the American Suffragette movement of the early 20th century.

The display magnified the pressure on Mori, who was eventually forced to resign, but Japan clearly still has a long way to go. Not long after the scandal, Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party invited female lawmakers to sit in on meetings of its mostly-male board of directors — with the stipulation that those observers would not be allowed to talk...

What's Going On With the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Greece?

On the Greek island of Lesvos, volunteers and refugees are facing violent attacks from locals.

Each day, dozens of refugees wash up on the shores of the Greek island of Lesvos. They come at all hours and from many different shores.

These refugees will be in the midst of dangerous journeys across the ocean, having fled their homes. Some come to the shores of Greece for a shot at a better life, but most come simply to survive.

One Border Falls, Another Closes

Last week, Idlib—one of the last rebel strongholds in Syria—began to crumble as Russian-backed airstrikes eviscerated its infrastructure. Surviving residents fled in huge numbers to the neighboring nation, Turkey.

Turkey has been shouldering the vast majority of the world's refugees since the worldwide crisis coalesced in the 2010s, and they currently host over three million refugees. Following Idlib's fall, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared that Turkey's borders were officially open because his nation could no longer handle the flows of refugees rushing out of Idlib.

This action was in violation of a 2016 Turkey-EU deal, in which the EU promised $6 billion to Turkey in exchange for their closed borders (though Turkey has only received roughly $3.2 million, which is perhaps the cause of Erdoğan's violation).

Many of Turkey's migrant population, aided or pushed by Turkish police, immediately attempted to flee Turkey for Greece, embarking on a journey across the Aegean Sea. Across the nation, Greek citizens and law enforcement officials have reacted violently, greeting refugees with tear gas, water cannons, and brutal attacks. Millions of refugees are now in prison-like camps on Greece's borders; others are still at sea, blocked by government ships on both sides.

laoistoday.com

Lesvos: A Microcosm of a Macro-Disaster

The island of Lesvos has seen a particularly harsh fallout from these recent events. Since the news from Turkey broke, local islanders have launched huge protests, establishing roadblocks and patrols to prevent migrants from moving from the sea into the camps.

In February, seven Lesvos inhabitants were arrested for planning violent attacks on migrants; following Turkey's announcement, journalists and aid volunteers have been injured by locals, and warehouses containing supplies and donations have been burned. Many of the organizations providing life-saving resources to refugees have been forced to shut down, and locals have been forcing boats to turn away from the island, resulting in the death of at least one child.

A far-right neo-Nazi party known as the Golden Dawn, which may be gaining prominence on the island, may be behind some of these actions.

Crumbling Patience: Lesvos Takes Fallout from the Syrian War

Lesvos's inhabitants were once praised for the strength of their solidarity. The island is vast and full of empty stretches of land, and the makeshift camps only take up a tiny fraction of its dry mountainous areas; but lately, the influx of migrants from Turkey and the threat of new government-built migrant centers have catalyzed a new wave of xenophobic violence.

The horrors of Lesvos's one major holding camp—Moria—are difficult to describe. The camp, designed to hold 3,000, currently holds over 20,000 refugees. Many languish there even though they have family and job prospects in the EU, held in limbo and exposed to disease and traumatizing violence, both of which run rampant in the camps.

In light of the recent riots, North Aegean governor Kostas Moutzouris has called for the declaration of a national emergency. However, politicians and human rights organizations have constantly called for an end to the misery on Lesvos since the crisis began five years ago.

Lesvos Waterfront Greeka.com

Of course, all these events are tragic consequences of much bigger political movements. The EU's failure to accept more refugees—and its failure to support the people living in its nation's camps—have burdened the island with far more refugees than it can handle. "The Lesbos community has been abandoned by its own government for almost five years to deal with the consequences of a failed reception system. Like the refugee community, it is tired," said Sophie McCann, a Doctors Without Borders advocacy advisor.

Al Jazeera

In turn, the proliferation of refugees is the result of a complex humanitarian disaster, one that often has unfortunate consequences. "Refugees are not a bargaining chip to be played with at the whims of political leaders," said EuroMed Rights President Wadir Al-Asmar. "Europeans cannot look away from what might become one of the worst humanitarian disasters the war in Syria has brought on its people. Respecting international humanitarian law as well as the human right to protection and refuge remain the sole possible answer in the face of such indiscriminate violence."

The Syrian civil war, which began in 2011, has killed 500,000 people, coming out to nearly 1 in 10 Syrians. The conflict was caused by many complex forces—including climate change, which led to a drought that resulted in congestion and economic stagnation in Syria's inner cities.

Ukraine Declares Martial Law After "Act of Aggression" From Russia

Russian ships fired on Ukrainian sailors and illegally detained whole crews over the weekend, escalating Russia-Ukraine tensions.

Ukraine began the week by declaring martial law after six navy sailors were injured when the Russian coast guard open fired on them. Concerningly, three Ukrainian artillery ships were also seized, with their 24 crew members forcibly detained by Russian authorities.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley urged Russia to "immediately cease its unlawful conduct" in the Black Sea off the coast of Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014. "In the name of international peace and security, Russia must immediately cease its unlawful conduct and respect the navigational rights and freedoms of all states," Haley announced at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council late Monday morning.


Russian vessel rams Ukrainian shipBBC

In response to the maritime incident, Ukraine's parliament overwhelmingly voted to impose martial law in the 10 regions bordering Russia. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that martial law will last for 30 days, concluding in December, at which time he will assess the need for further action.

Poroshenko openly condemned Russia's actions, stating, "We consider it as an act of aggression against our state and a very serious threat," the president said. "Unfortunately, there are no 'red lines' for the Russian Federation." The international community has joined Ukraine in condemning Russia's actions, with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pledging "full support for Ukraine's territorial integrity" and stating that Russia had "no justification" for the seizure of Ukraine's ships.

Russian officials dispute the details of the altercation, as the Federal Security Service contends that the skirmish was a justified response to the Ukrainian ships illegally entering territorial waters. Russia's Border Service released a statement over the weekend, stating, "The vessels are carrying out dangerous maneuvers and are disobeying the Russian authorities' demands." Ukraine denies allegations of wrongdoing, citing a 2003 treaty dictating maritime rights and protocol over the Kerch Strait where their ships were detained.

Ultimately, both governments are interpreting the incident as a fabricated aggression in order to discredit the other. Amidst an international backlash over the conflict, an arbitration court in Paris reportedly ruled that Russia owed Ukraine $1.3 billion in damages for the property seized in the annexation of Crimea. Though Russia did not comment on the ruling, they've accused the Ukrainian president of using the situation as a "dangerous provocation" that justifies the imposition of martial law, which grants him the power to manipulate Ukraine's next presidential election, scheduled for March.

It's true that President Poroshenko is currently far behind his political rival in the polls. Oksana Syroid, a deputy speaker in Ukraine's parliament, agreed, "Martial law in Ukraine would present a wonderful chance to manipulate the presidential elections." Aside from increasing the president's power, martial law would ostensibly allow the government to strengthen air defense and prepare a partial mobilization in the event of a Russian incursion. However, it could also restrict Ukrainians' civil liberties. For instance, objectors cite parliament's ambiguous wording in its plans for "strengthening" anti-terrorism measures and "information security." Three former Ukrainian presidents have already publicly opposed martial law, penning a letter that warns that it could be a "threat to democracy" in a country that found its democratic feet less than 30 years ago.

Martial law is set to begin on Wednesday, November 28. Alleged footage of the maritime clash has been leaked across news outlets and Youtube, found below.

Russian vessels fire at and seize Ukrainian ships youtu.be

Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung

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