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Women protesting. UN Women
Weekly hindsight 27 Nov-1 Dec 2017

Autonomous women: the fight for worldwide gender equality

Send this article to people who don’t think feminism is necessary in a world where the UN has to initiate 16 days of activism against the continued violence towards women.

Lydia Morrish Lydia Morrish WikiTribune, United Kingdom

November 25 was the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. And yet, women all across the globe are still battling for their rights, centuries after the fight for gender equality was kickstarted.

As UN Women’s 16 Days of Activism kicks into gear (November 25 – December 10), let’s take a look at the state of the safety and autonomy of European women today. 

Women at risk of violence in Malta despite high gender equality score

Almost a quarter of Malta's women will have experienced gender-based violence by the age of 15; victims of gender-based violence do not receive sufficient help post-violence; too many women are killed in Malta by their romantic or sexual partners.

These stark claims come from The European Institute for Gender Equality's third edition of the Gender Equality Index, which calculates how much progress each EU member state has made towards gender equality.

While Malta scored higher than the EU average, it didn't reach the halfway mark of equality between men and women. The report points to how much work is still to be done in Malta and across the EU.

Sexual misconduct overlooked in Austrian skiing

The "Me Too" hashtag campaign saw women across the world sharing their own stories of sexual harassment online.

In Austria, the trend revealed sexual misconduct in the professional skiing industry was a huge problem in the 1970s. And it has gone overlooked until now.

Former ski racing champion Nicola Werdenigg and another athlete told Der Standard that in the 70s they faced attacks, from sexual harassment to rape, from their male counterparts.

Der Standard' journalist Petra Stuiber said that the professional skiing industry, and Catholic boarding schools and orphanages in Vienna, where cases of sexual violence have also emerged, are "closed systems where a handful of men hold absolute power."

Hungary's problem with gender violence

"Hungarian society is in dire need of thought-provoking discussions when it comes to gender violence," Ivett Korösi writes.

She says policy makers in Hungary are unwilling to take gender matters seriously there, particularly when it comes to the abuse and murder of women there.

The Hungarian government has been reluctant to consent to the Istanbul Convention, which aims to end the impunity of perpetrators of violence against women. From 2004 to 2017, the document was signed all EU countries apart from Hungary.

Catcalling to empty pockets in France

While not the most dangerous form of gender discrimination, catcalling is the bane of every woman's life. Whether you are leered at on public transport or asked for your number from the window of a van, it adds to systemic sexism, and can pave the way for other forms of demeaning behaviour towards women.

Marlène Schiappa, France’s junior minister for gender equality, who is also a feminist and writer according to The New York Times, is prepared to stamp out catcalling by proposing a catcalling fine. She wants to charge French men for making unwanted advances towards women in public spaces.

Schiappa wants to make catcalling illegal and part of anti-harassment legislation. Such a policy could be revolutionary, and set the ball rolling for similar legislation in other countries.

Abortion restricted in Poland 

In parts of the world where abortion is illegal or only legal in very specific cases, online abortion service Women on Web sends out abortion pills to women in need.

But women in Poland, where it is not prohibited to administer a termination with abortion pills, haven't been receiving their packages from Women on Web and other NGOs.

The Polish Post has not decided how much of the medication is allowed into the country.

Martyna Kraus says this is a clear violation of their rights, and that withholding the pills is yet another attempt to politicize abortion in Poland. 

Sexual harassment could be solved with power rebalancing

From entitlement to manipulation, sexual violence and coercion have lit up the pages of newspapers and social media feeds for the past two months. Men -- and some women -- across all industries have been accused of sexual harassment or misconduct.

But for anything to change, power must be rebalanced, and more women must be in positions authority at work.

My piece on power imbalances in the workplace analyses the core of why sexual harassment is so commonplace, and why power is frighteningly easy to abuse.

 

But in the aftermath the Harvey Weinstein fall-out, and with "Me Too" reminding the world that sexual harassment has no one industry, it is interesting that no big "scandal" has emerged about the retail industry, or care sector.

Perhaps this is because industries in the public eye have traditional power hierarchies -- business, technology, politics, media, sports, the theater. This could also be because women in industries that aren't in the public eye -- hospitality, healthcare, the service industry -- aren't afforded the public support that comes with reporting sexual misconduct.

So, if there is anything to dedicate the 16 Days of Activism to, let it be the women who either cannot speak out or whose voices are not being heard in the noise.

Also in the Weekly hindsight 27 Nov-1 Dec 2017
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