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International Women’s Day 2015

Oppose the capitalist system of oppression & inequality

By Lea Valance

Restrictive abortion laws

Approximately 25% of the world’s population lives in a country where abortion is restricted and is only allowed when it poses a risk to the life of the pregnant woman. In Europe, Ireland and Malta are the most restrictive, on par with countries like Chile, Brazil and El Salvador in Latin America, Angola, Somalia and Nigeria in Africa, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen in the Middle East and Indonesia, Laos and the Philippines in Asia to cite but a few. In total, 66 Countries have such restrictive bans on abortion.

Only 39% of the world’s population lives in countries where abortions are accessible without the need for a legal justification. However, other factors may restrict a woman from accessing a termination such as her financial situation or the lack of readily available information.

Violence & rape

Sexual or physical violence has been experienced by an average of 35% of women worldwide. Up to 15% of women in Japan and 71% of women in Ethiopia have reported some form of either sexual or physical violence by their partner while in rural Bangladesh, 30% of women reported their first sexual experience as forced.

As many as 1 in every 5 women is a victim of rape or attempted rape during her lifetime in Ireland. Worldwide, this figure is 1 in 3. Moreover, just above 1 in 10 women worldwide has experienced some form of sexual violence.

A 2007 research shows that in the US, 45% of women murdered were killed by their current or former partner. In Ireland the figure is 52%.

Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation (FMG) is a barbaric procedure to completely or partially remove parts of the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. This practice is mostly imposed on girls aged between 0 and 15 years.
It has been estimated that 3million women worldwide are at risk each year of undergoing some kind of FMG. That’s approximately 8000 girls per day.

This practice is more prevalent in Africa, however it is present worldwide. FMG is used as a way of controlling women’s sexuality, in order to preserve a woman’s virginity or reduce her sexual desires.
Consequences of FMG include severe pain, difficulty in passing urine, causes various infections sometimes leading to death and is of course a huge trauma.

Prostitution / human trafficking

It was estimated that 80% of people trafficked for sexual or other forms of exploitation are women. International research shows that 95% of trafficked women are subjected to physical or sexual violence.

89% of women involved in prostitution want to stop but can’t do so for various reasons: coercion, financial situation being two major factors.

Workplace conditions / gender pay gap

Despite the fact that discrimination on grounds of gender is illegal in most European countries; the pay gap persists. On average, men were paid just over 17% higher wages than women in 2008. Even though that figure decreased slightly
in 2010 to around 16%, it has increased again in recent years.

South Korea has one of the highest pay gaps in the world with 37.5%. This is closely followed by Russia, Estonia and Japan with pay gaps of 32%, 30% and 27% respectively. The list of 20 countries with highest pay gap also include France, Germany, the UK and Israel with percentages higher than 14%.

Globally, women mainly fill precarious work positions. From insecure jobs to part-time, informal & low paid work a number of sectors have a predominant female workforce. Precarious work is on the rise with the growing popularity amongst the ruling class of zero hour contracts and other such schemes and the outsourcing of some public services to private companies.

The lack of recognition of women’s unpaid work in terms of childcare, housework etc. is huge worldwide. Women are still expected to carry out unpaid work in the home by societies around the globe.

Labour & Sinn Fein deny women the right to choose

By Aprille Scully

The backward and rotten political establishment in this country was exposed with the rejection of an opposition bill on Fatal Foetal Abnormalities (FFA) on 10 February of this year. The legislation, which would allow women to seek terminations of pregnancy in cases in which the foetus has no chance of survival, was defeated by 104 votes to 20.
This vote stands in stark contrast to public opinion – a Sunday Times poll saw 80% of people supporting abortion in the circumstances outlined in the bill.

Sinn Fein’s deafening silence

Sinn Féin – a self-proclaimed ‘left force’ – abstained from voting, The reason, Sinn Fein claimed, was because it has not yet discussed this at its Ard Fheis. The eighth Amendment is disastrous to women’s health and their right to bodily autonomy. Given the high profile cases we have seen in the last two years since Savita Halappanavar’s death, Sinn Féin’s silence on this issue is significant. It is shambolic that a political party has not established a position on what can be a life and de­ath matter for women.

Hiding behind the Attorney General’s recommendations, Tánaiste Joan Burton said it is “cruel” to give hope that unconstitutional legislation might be passed. Cruelly, the Labour Party offered their “enormous sympathy” to the women affected by FFA instead of holding a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment. Labour’s confounding hypocrisy deepened after it voted at its Ard Fheis to advocate a referendum to repeal the 8th in its General Election manifesto. Furthermore, the legislation that Labour voted to replace the 8th would mean, according to the Labour Women Chair, Sinead Ahern who proposed it, that “our abortion laws would remain the most restrictive in Europe”.

As well as causing huge homelessness and poverty through its implementation of austerity, the Labour Party has made no serious attempt to push for the separation of church and state. Labour holds the office of Education and yet has completely bowed to Catholic influence in schools. It is through mass mobilisations by the working class, young people, women and all the oppressed that a secular, progressive society can be realised.

Attempts to row back on abortion rights last year were stopped in Spain by an active struggle. Abortion rights were won in the US in 1973 during the administration of avowed “pro-lifer”, President Nixon. We too must wage that same war and demand a Repeal of the eighth Amendment now.

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