27 Sep 2017

Womens rights have become a trojan horse for conservative xenophobia

These parties have no actual interest in the promotion of women’s rights, but are happy to use them as an argument against refugees and Muslims.

Julia Sahlender
Julia Sahlender Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Womens rights have become a trojan horse for conservative xenophobia - NewsMavens
Rosie the Riveter. Smithsonian Institute/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Why this story matters:

It’s nearly election time in Austria, which means that political parties and their agendas are dominating the news. One narrative that has been gaining more and more popularity lately is the "we have to protect our women" one. It’s coming from parties that are usually not too concerned with women or their rights: the conservative Austrian People’s Party, or ÖVP, and the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria, or FPÖ.

The foreign minister and candidate for the ÖVP, Sebastian Kurz, last Sunday said that women's rights were "holy" and needed protection in times of "more and more immigration". The FPÖ candidate, Heinz-Christian Strache, also spoke about how women needed to be protected from being "raped in the street" and "oppression", which he mentioned in connection with immigration from predominantly Muslim countries.

Knowing these two parties and their usual stance on gender equality and women’s rights, it is quite obvious that their concern is not so much about the women themselves but about their xenophobic agenda.

Like when it comes to protecting women against domestic violence by their partners for example. The FPÖ isn’t too keen on doing a lot about that. A few years ago a party member even justified cutting funds for women’s shelters by saying that these shelters are "helping in the destruction of marriage". Both parties have also supported a "pro-life" organization's demands for statistics on motives and reasons for abortions, a move that experts see as an invasion into and a restriction of a woman’s right to choose. A right that needs to be protected, here in Austria as well as in other European countries like Poland and Hungary.

It really angers me that these parties have no actual interest in the promotion of women’s rights whatsoever, but are happy to use them as an argument against refugees and Muslims. While I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that women and their rights need to be protected, I do not agree with the reasoning and solutions these parties offer. 

Details from the story:

  • Actual promotion of women's rights mostly missing from the election program of conservative and right-wing parties
  • In addition to abortion statistics, the FPÖ also demands a 48-hour waiting period before an abortion can be done
  • Abortion rights are in jeopardy in various countries, often because of right-wing parties and their policies
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