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Reinforcing the women’s rights movement is an urgent priority

As International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women approaches, MARY ADOSSIDES previews a meeting featuring Kurdish sisters from Turkey and trade unionists who will shine a spotlight on the scourge of femicide today

VIOLENCE against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today. 

Domestic violence can lead to femicide. It remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it and its impact on working-class women is disproportionate.

In the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, a 19-year-old girl belonging to the Dalit community (“lower” caste), died of horrendous injuries earlier this month after she was gang raped by four “upper” caste men. 

The victim’s family claims officers and villagers pressured them to accept money and forget the case. State police announced that she had not been raped.

In Turkey the rise of religious fundamentalism has led to a male backlash with more women killed by current or former partners. 

Islamist groups portray women’s groups as enemies of the state and this shift towards a more repressive regime makes Turkey’s women’s rights movement impressive. 

Femicide and domestic violence have contributed to women’s widespread mobilisation campaigning against Turkey’s ruling party’s proposal to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, which would act as a safeguard to help protect women from partner violence. 

Surprisingly, Turkey was the first country to sign and ratify the convention, but President Recep Yayyip Erdogan’s nationalist and religious stance portrays it now as destroying the family unit, calling women who defended the convention as “prostitutes.” 

In Britain the Femicide Census makes difficult reading. The 2018 report shows that 149 women across the UK were killed by men. 

Every fortnight three women are killed by their current or former partner and in more than half the cases, “overkilling” is evident. 

“Overkilling” is a chilling term. It suggests a level of violence against women that is beyond imagination. This means killers probably relish demonstrating their strength and virility. 

In England and Wales, figures show that only one in 65 rapes reported to the police leads to a charge — just 1.5 per cent. 

But then the criminal justice system has been failing women for decades — and while the law recognises domestic violence including rape as a crime, significant cuts to legal aid are a massive barrier for many working-class and migrant women seeking injunctions against abusive ex-partners. 

Disastrous reforms to the probation service have meant more male offenders with histories of serious violence towards women are being classed as “low” or “medium” risk and given short prison sentences. 

Fear of reprisals from abusers, legal costs and a fear of not been heard by the police has meant a lack of reporting by working-class women. 

The closure of safe spaces or refuges, some of which have been replaced with cut-price facilities run by staff lacking expertise, are just some of the reasons why women — particularly women with children with nowhere to go and no money — return to violent men traumatising their families. 

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said: “Sexual violence against women and girls is rooted in centuries of male domination. Let us not forget that the gender inequalities that fuel rape culture are essentially a question of power imbalances.” 

This year working-class women have paid a particularly heavy price for the pandemic and the rise of domestic abuse in this period has been widely reported. 

The double burden of women’s oppression due to their reproductive capacity, and their role in social production is a central pillar of capitalist super-exploitation. 

Keeping working-class women subservient, poorly paid and with limited protection make them vulnerable. 

Dividing the working class is a plank of capitalist society. Capitalist ideology is supported by a toleration by the capitalist state for stereotypes of masculinity and femininity.

With this in mind this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25 will focus on rape. 

Women’s rights groups around the world will be protesting against domestic violence. 

Strengthening our women’s movement in Britain as a decisive force for change and progress is more urgent than ever and calling on our organised labour and trade union movement to challenge the status quo, by campaigning for safe spaces for women is an urgent priority.

Don’t miss North London Communist Party’s online public meeting, Stop Femicide, on Monday November 2 at 7pm with Kurdish sisters from Turkey, Derman Gulmez from the Ankara Women’s Platform, trade unionist San Senik and Laura Briggs, CPB. 

Register on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/stop-femicide-tickets-122600191473

Mary Adossides is London secretary of the Communist Party of Britain’s district committee.

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