On November 25 the International Women’s Alliance calls on our sisters and brothers around the world to commemorate the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women by remembering the women who fought to end the root causes of this violence.
As the climate crisis, the global pandemic crisis, and the crisis of production continues to worsen the condition of all people across the world; the International Women’s Alliance remembers the murders of the Mirabal Sisters who were killed by the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic on this day in 1960. The three sisters who organized against and openly opposed Trujillo were murdered for their political activism, and desire to see their people liberated from his tyrannical and brutal rule.
Trujillo was supported by the United States during his 18 years as president of the Dominican Republic – mainly because he was staunchly anti-communist, but he also learned much of his style of leadership as president from the US Marines who occupied the Island from 1916-1924, six years before Trujillo would begin his reign of terror.
On this, the International Day to End Violence Against Women, IWA hopes to encourage our sisters to continue the fight against tyranny and all forms of political repression. All over the world women face violence daily – not just at the hands of family members or in exploitative working conditions spawned by a profit-oriented economic system – but also from the State. The imperialist despot – the United States – has empowered countless dictators and tyrants to assume power and terrorize women all over the world.
At face value, IDEVAW may appear to be a day to encourage resilience in women – to end marital violence or assault – when in fact we must remember that the number one perpetrator of violence against women and femicide is US Imperialism and capitalist exploitation.
All across the world women are forced to take low paying jobs to support their families as the cost of living increases. In 2013, the role of women in the global economy became clear when a garment warehouse which housed five factories collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Over half of the workers at the factory were women – and a majority of the 1,132 casualties and additional 2,500 injuries were women. This incident, preceded by a nearby factory fire which killed an additional 112 women and girls, shows that women all over the world are exposed to unsafe and deadly working conditions in the name of capitalist production.
During the pandemic as well, women were forced to give up jobs or were put out of work by the shifting economy. Many working women work in the “unofficial economy” as housekeepers or vendors – a sector of the labor force who received little to no benefit from measly government support.
Women globally face the risk of femicide or disappearances, especially when they stand up against corporations stealing their lands or dare to defend themselves against the state. At a rally during the Cop26 global summit for climate change indigenous women from all over the world held a rally to bring attention to the high number of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls. They stated clearly that femicides against indigenous communities who defend their ancestral domains against extractive and exploitative industries are intentional – a tool of corporations and governments to silence dissent and spread fear. In Canada, Indigenous women and girls are targeted for violence more than any other group, and are 12 times more likely to go missing or be killed. In the US, the justice department found that Native American women faced murder rates more than 10 times the national average. Further investigations found that it is because indigenous communities often live near extraction sites which often operate extrajudicially – increasing the vulnerability of women in the area.
While the United States has long promoted its invasion and occupation of Afghanistan as an effort to liberate women, the US is also partly responsible for the creation of madrassas in Afghanistan and Pakistan which led to the creation of the Taliban. These schools were started to oppose Soviet influence in the region at the time, but ended up creating an extremist group which uses the teachings from the Madrassas to promote violence and oppression of women and girls.
Further east, in the Philippines, current President Rodrigo Duterte has constantly proven himself to be an enemy of the people, and a promoter of violence against women. In the midst of the Pandemic, Duterte claimed to make an effort to support the return of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to the Philippines from their work abroad – only about 800,000 of the 2.2 million OWFs were able to return to Manila. Once they arrived in the capital, they were given a measly cash stimulus which barely covered the required 14 day quarantine. With no job or prospects, many became stranded in Manila – unable to return to their home provinces.
Women account for 56% of Overseas Filipino Workers – a government program which gains income by taxing remittances sent from OFWs to their families. Remittances account for almost 10% of the GDP of the Philippines, making the archipelago dependent on foreign labor of its citizens.
Furthermore, Duterte has targeted women activists during his presidency. He has killed human rights defenders, has targeted leaders of Gabriela Philippines and other political organizations, and publicly encouraged the Armed forces of the Philippines to rape and shoot women who are members of the New People’s Army. Duterte is a puppet of the US, who is able to maintain a near constant military presence thanks to Duterte’s support of the Visiting Forces Act.
The United States’ imperialist rule reaches all around the world, and in the epicenter – the United States of America – women are no better off. During a recent IWA Webinar – Kala McIntosh from the Pan African Community Action (PACA) shared the impact of police violence against Black women:
“While we think of police violence in terms of physical fights and shootings, the reality is that violence is much more than just two people punching each other. Black women are subjected to sexual harrassment and assault by police and other agents of the state – such as Child Protective Service Agencies who have the power to take away their children if they complain about [or report] sexual assault. Sexual Assault is violence, women are sexually assaulted and when they do not punch back it is out of fear of being beaten or murdered. The real threat of violence is violence. This society genders violence so that it equalizes violence with the way men experience it, however, when sexual assault is included in violence we believe women are victims of police violence at a much higher rate than men.”
Kala reminded us that violence against women often goes unreported because it is state sanctioned or normalized. This is unacceptable, and the women of the world deserve better!
State-sanctioned violence against women in the United States reached a new level this year as well with the passing and supreme court approval of Senate Bill 8 which limits abortion access for some seven million women, and creates a legal precedence for similar bans across the country. Many grassroots organizations along with nonprofits and the United Nations have condemned the bill due to its discrimination against women citing specifically that the bill will make abortion unsafe and deadly. In the United States abortion care is essential for women of color, working class women, and people from other vulnerable groups who often do not have access to medical care or are not afforded the same privilledges as other citizens – limiting abortion access directly attacks working class women in the United States and sets a terrifying president for women’s medical care and rights globally.
While state-sanctioned violence against women may seem like an insurmountable obstacle, women have the tools needed to free ourselves. Through community organizing, political activism, and strong campaigns to change the systems which hold us down – a better world is possible! Women are able to oppose state violence and create a world where it is safe to be educated, safe to advocate for ourselves and our families, safe to hold a job, and safe to demand change.
We call on all IWA member organizations to commemorate this International Day to End Violence Against Women by demanding an end to US Imperialism and militarism and Capitalist Exploitation of Women!