Women rally around the world despite coronavirus restrictions | New women

Thousands of women around the world have taken part in annual marches and protests to mark International Women’s Day, in a muted case due to restrictions on large gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.

From India to the Philippines to Spain, women have called for equal rights and freedoms and an end to violence against women.

Several hundred Uyghur Muslim women in Turkey staged an International Women’s Day march along the Bosporus to demand the closure of mass incarceration camps in China’s Xinjiang region.

Protesters chanted “stop the genocide” and “close the camps” as they marched a few hundred yards from the walled Chinese consulate in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul.

An ethnic Uyghur protester holding a sign that reads ‘Rape is a crime of humanity’ takes part in a rally on International Women’s Day to protest against China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Istanbul , Turkey [Murad Sezer/Reuters]

Rights groups estimate that at least one million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities have been imprisoned in camps spread across the vast northwest region.

In the Philippines, hundreds of protesters, mostly women, gathered in the capital Manila and targeted the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, for alleged violations of women’s rights.

Protesters smashed an effigy of Duterte with hammers during a protest near his residence in Manila in which women’s rights activists denounced him for what they called abusive security policies.

“We are facing a virus far deadlier than COVID and it is the rotten, anti-popular, pro-foreign and macho-fascist presidency,” said Joms Salvador, general secretary of Gabriela, a leading women’s organization in the Philippines. .

Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has infuriated women’s groups, who call him a misogynist after repeatedly making rape jokes.

In India, thousands of women farmers staged sit-ins and took part in a hunger strike in the capital to protest new agricultural laws.

The protests took place at several sites on the outskirts of New Delhi where tens of thousands of farmers camped for more than three months to protest laws that they say will leave them poorer and at the mercy of big business. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says laws are needed to modernize agriculture.

Around 100 women wearing yellow and green scarves sat cross-legged in front of a makeshift stage in Ghazipur, one of the many protest sites. At least 17 participated in a one-day hunger strike.

“The women are sitting here in the open air in protest, but Modi doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about mothers, sisters and daughters. He doesn’t care about women. It’s clear, ”said Mandeep Kaur, a farmer who traveled 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) from Chhattisgarh state to participate in the protests.

Women farmers attend a protest against agricultural laws on International Women’s Day in Bahadurgar, near the Haryana-Delhi border, India on March 8, 2021 [Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]

In neighboring Pakistan, thousands of women gathered across the country. Equal rights, the freedom of adults to choose their life partner, an end to forced marriages in the name of culture and religion and an end to sexual harassment were among the protesters’ demands.

The Aurat March or Women’s March was founded in this South Asian country in 2018 when women from different backgrounds marched through the Pakistani port city of Karachi to demand equal rights. Since then, there have been annual demonstrations in major cities.

In Spain, more than 100 protesters defied a court order banning protests by rallying – while keeping a distance from each other – in Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol square. They shouted “Enough patriarchal justice!” and held banners against fascism and calling for an end to violence and repression against women.

“Spain cannot continue to be built with women on the margins, with a few breaking glass ceilings while the most vulnerable continue on sticky floors,” Equality Minister Irene Montero said .

Policewomen escort activists from the Aurat march during rally to mark International Women’s Day in Islamabad on March 8, 2021 [Aamir Qureshi/AFP]

Women at the negotiating table

A Gallup poll found that despite recent high-profile appointments of women around the world, broader progress towards equality in political representation and other key areas is faltering.

Data from the UN Women agency shows that women are heads of state or government in only 22 countries, 119 countries never having had a leader.

Fawzia Koofi, negotiator in intra-Afghan talks between the government and the Taliban and member of the Movement for Change party, told Al Jazeera that in Afghanistan, women were not seen as influential citizens who could change the dynamics of war.

“Over four decades of war in Afghanistan, unfortunately, has taken a lot of things away from women – not only their lives and those of their loved ones, but also opportunities: education, access to employment and access to resources”, a- she told Al Jazeera. .

“Therefore, these peace talks are about women. And we had to fight to make sure women were at the negotiating table. They represent Afghanistan transformed.

Fawzia Koofi, an Afghan politician, speaks from her office in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 12, 2019 [File: Scott Peterson/Getty Images]

Koofi’s comments followed a report by the Committee to Safety Afghan Journalists which said more than 300 women had left the industry in recent months.

Citing a “wave of targeted killings” as one of the main reasons, the report also listed the financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic as another.

Last week, three Enikass TV media workers were killed by armed fighters in the eastern city of Jalalabad in an attack claimed by local ISIL affiliate.

World leaders pay tribute

World leaders, including Pope Francis, marked the occasion by praising the role of women.

“Women are braver than men, that’s how it is,” the 84-year-old Argentine pontiff said on his flight back to Rome after a four-day visit to Iraq.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wished all women to be “healthy, happy and successful in everything, to reach an understanding with all the people who are dear to you”.

United States President Joe Biden paid tribute to the “critical and often disproportionate” role played by women in response to the global pandemic.

“COVID-19 hits the poorest and most marginalized women hardest,” Biden said in a statement.

“These global trends are hurting us all because we know that governments, economies and communities are stronger when they include the full participation of women – no country can recover from this pandemic if it leaves half its population behind. behind.”

In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan underlined the importance of women in society and said his country will take new measures to combat violence against women and improve their social and economic status.

“Women, who represent half of humanity, cannot and should not be excluded from politics or any other area of ​​life,” Erdogan said at a meeting of the women’s branch of the ruling party. .

Stating that a new parliamentary committee is being formed to tackle violence against women, Erdogan also stressed that no form of violence against women is tolerable.

The number of women killed each year in Turkey rose to 300 last year, according to the rights group We Will Stop Femicide Platform.

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