Women in Austria demand half of the power

"Every third seat in the National Council is not enough," argue the signatories of the women's petition in an open letter to the future government.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Women in
Austria demand half of the power - NewsMavens
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

“If the fight for women's rights in 2017 resembles the one from 1997, it is not because feminists have not come up with new topics but because injustice remains the same,” said Ulli Weish of the "Platform 20,000 Women", this April.

That is why, twenty years after the first women's petition, Teresa Havlicek proposed to launch another one -- the "Women's Advocacy 2.0". She no longer wants to live in “a society where she needs to tell young women that they cannot change anything".

Recently, things have gotten worse. Since Austria elected the new National Council, women fear a backlash and the loss of already earned rights, the letter claims. And it goes on to say that:

"The political concerns of women were not an issue during the election campaign and do not seem to bother the future coalition during current negotiations.”

Therefore, together with the Austrian Women's Ring, the Alliance for Nonviolent Living and the Initiative #aufstehn, they are sending an open letter to the future government and the new members of the National Council. It was signed by many celebrities such as Christine Nöstlinger, Ursula Strauss, Mavie Hörbiger, Sarah Wiener, Eva Rossmann and Doris Knecht.

And here is an excerpt from the letter:

"According to the national anthem, Austria is 'the home of great daughters and sons'. We would like to appeal to all those who will soon be making decisions about our future. Almost a century after women were granted suffrage, only one in every three seats in the National Council belongs to a female representative. That is not enough. We, women, constitute more than half of the population. Half of the population is entitled to half of the power and half of the money."

Details from the story:

The demands, expressed in the petition, range from poverty reduction to state-financed abortion. Here are the most important ones.

  • Shorter working hours -- The number of women working part-time has increased since the last referendum. Unpaid work is also mostly done by women. Hence, reducing the working time to 30 hours for all should help split the unpaid labor more justly.
  • Minimum wage -- Minimum income should no longer be negotiated depending on the sector -- it needs to be determined by the law, according to the platform, which has a gross minimum wage of 1,750 euros.
  • Women's quota -- Party and club support should be intrinsically linked to the quota of women -- the closer the parties would be to 50% gender equilibrium, the more support they would receive. Sanctions should be imposed on the state-owned companies that disregard the women's quota on their supervisory boards.
  • Free Prevention -- For women, it is crucial to decide independently whether they want to get pregnant or not, claims Havlicek. Hence the demand to secure free contraceptives and free access to pregnancy tests and abortion throughout Austria.
  • Child care -- For each child, there should be a legal entitlement to full-time free care after maternity leave has expired.
  • Violence protection -- Access to women's shelters should also be ensured for asylum-seeking women and women with uncertain residence status. Currently, at least 90 additional places in such violence-protection housing centers are urgently needed, says Frauenhaus spokeswoman Maria Rösslhumer.
  • Livelihood -- The income of the partner should not be credited to the minimum income and emergency assistance of the woman.
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