Women activists have dominated the activism space in 2018
by: Terry Simelane-Mathabathe - 26 December 2018
According to a report by Amnesty International, women activists have led the charge this year
While women’s rights groups have always been active in the social justice space, 2018 saw women take the forefront in fighting for their rights on a grand scale. According to the latest report by the Amnesty International called Rights Today, in the past year of activism, women have led the charge. The report launched earlier this week reviews on the state of human rights over the past year.
“The burgeoning power of women’s voices should not be underestimated”, notes the review.
Women-led groups like Latin America’s Ni una menos have galvanised mass movements on women’s rights issues on a scale not seen before. Ni una menos (not one woman less) is a fourth wave grassroots feminist collective that has aided in putting femicide in Argentina into the eyes of the world. While their main focus is changing legislation on femicide and gender based violence, they have also held protests touching on issues like toxic masculinity, sexual assault, the gender pay gap abortion rights and transgender rights. In India and South Africa, thousands took to the streets to protest endemic sexual violence. In Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively, women activists risked arrest to resist the driving ban. In Argentina, Ireland and Poland, demonstrators rallied in vast numbers to demand an end to oppressive abortion laws. In the USA, Europe and Japan, millions joined the second #MeToo-led women’s march to demand an end to misogyny and abuse.
According to the report “[g]ender-based violence disproportionately affects women, transgender people and gender non-conforming people; yet it remains a human rights crisis that politicians continue to ignore.”
Women’s rights have taken the spotlight in the media, for all the wrong reasons, in recent years. The shocking revelation that South Africa is the femicide capital of the world was brought to the fore at Isithunzi Sabafazi, a dialogue highlighting domestic abuse during the 16 days of activism. Women’s bodies around the world have also been in the firing line for discriminative legislation as the US cuts budgets for family planning centers and some countries in Europe impose stricter abortion laws.
“The woman’s body is the most legislated entity.” said Dr Mlambo-Ngcuka when speaking about the need for initiatives that center around women’s rights,” said Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka speaking at Isithunzi Sabafazi.
What has been even more shocking, is the slow response of governments to change or reverse discriminatory legislation coupled with their inaction to make good on the promises that they make at gender violence summits. Speaking on the place of women’s rights in society, Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said “Women’s rights have consistently been placed a rung below other rights and freedoms by governments who believe they can pay lip service to these issues while doing little in reality to protect the rights of half the population”
The need for women in activism has arisen from growing attacks on women’s rights by global leaders. “Worse still, many of the current crop of leaders in the world have launched fresh attacks on women’s rights with their misogynistic and divisive narratives. These leaders try to argue that they are protecting traditional values that represent family interests, but the truth is, they are pushing an agenda that denies women basic equality.” said Kumi
Women activists have risked their lives and freedoms to bring to light human rights injustices. They include Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian child activist who was unjustly imprisoned for daring to stand up for her people; Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef, three activists who are now detained in Saudi Arabia for campaigning on women’s rights; and Marielle Franco, who was brutally murdered in Brazil earlier this year because she fearlessly fought for human rights.
While we celebrate the achievements of women activists, we need to note the circumstances that lead to women taking up the charge and fighting for their rights. The evils of femicide, domestic violence, the gender pay gap, rape and sexual assault, the policing of reproductive rights and many other infractions on the lives of women around the world are creating a world that is almost impossible for women to lead fulfilled and free lives in.
Amnesty International has urged governments to take action to ensure that women’s rights are upheld – this includes not only commitments to international standards, but changes to harmful national laws and proactive measures to empower women and protect their rights.