Women took to the streets to force change in 2020 | World
From Belarus to Nigeria to Thailand, women have played a leading role in protest movements this year, driven by growing frustration over the slow pace of political change and inequalities exacerbated by COVID-19.
Whether seeking to end an authoritarian regime or to speak out against police brutality and abortion restrictions, women have taken to the streets in protests that have made headlines and have sometimes turned violent.
“Women always react when things seem to get out of hand, so they take to the streets,” said Aysha Renna, 23, a student who organized protests in India against a citizenship law seen by many as anti-Muslim. .
She has become the face of protests that have spread across India after a photo of her waving her finger at a baton-wielding police officer went viral. Tens of thousands of women staged a sit-in protesting the law.
“If we don’t protest today, we won’t be allowed to do so in the future,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from her hometown of Malappuram, Kerala state. .
The growing outspokenness of women results in gender-based violence and inequalities in professional and political life remain almost as bad as 25 years ago, the United Nations said in October.
Only modest gains in education and a drop in maternal mortality have been made since 1995, but the coronavirus pandemic threatens to slow progress in these areas as well, he added.
Women on the front line
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres tell world leaders in September, that gender inequality remains “the greatest human rights challenge in the world”, and numerous protests led by women have targeted the disadvantages they face.
“There is definitely more visibility for women on the front lines,” said Janjira Sombatpoonsiri, a Thai expert on democracy and authoritarian politics.
“In these countries, a common denominator is inequality, not only in terms of gender but in every way – political, economic. Women feel the impact as citizens,” said the political scientist from Chulalongkorn University. from Bangkok.
“Women think they have to take matters into their own hands, they can’t wait for men to solve their problem.”
Millions of Latin American women in countries like Mexico and Chile stayed away from offices, schools and government offices in March in strikes dubbed “a day without us” to protest against gender violence, inequality and restricted rights.
Young women in Thailand publicly denounced sexism in protests that rocked the country for months, emboldened by widespread protests demanding the departure of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and reforms of the powerful monarchy.
Poland, tens of thousands protested in defiance of strict coronavirus restrictions, after a decision tightening restrictions on abortion rights in the Roman Catholic country. Police heated up with the demonstrators in some rallies.
Thousands of women were at the forefront of events against police brutality in Nigeria. A lawyer, who helped organize the protesters’ legal defense, was prevented from leaving the country and her passport was briefly confiscated.
‘A way to assert yourself’
Meanwhile, in Belarus, protesters dubbed the “women in white” took to the streets – many of them for the first time – demanding an end to the violence that erupted after the disputed re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko on August 9.
“Nowadays, more and more women are educated, professional, aware of the rights of their citizens, and participating in protests is a way to assert themselves as such,” said Elena Gapova, Belarusian sociologist.
In some countries, female protesters were also treated “differently” by riot police, said Gapova, who teaches at Western Michigan University in the United States.
“They are beaten and detained, but to a lesser extent than men. Even ‘unpleasant’ regimes are not happy to publicly exercise violence against masses of women,” Gapova added.
Elsewhere, however, female protesters faced similar levels of violence as the men, but said they had no regrets.
“We are smaller and maybe weaker, but the message (that we are sending) is so much stronger,” said Edith Leung, 30, an opposition politician from Hong Kong, who received five points. suture to the head after being hit by the police. baton last year.
“When you want to change country, change country – you have to be part of this process.”