On Wednesday, women started taking to the streets in large numbers all across the world to protect rights that are increasingly under attack.
Capitals around the world are holding marches, rallies, and demonstrations to celebrate International Women’s Day, including Madrid, where wide, tree-lined boulevards are sometimes thronged with a sea of purple, a color frequently linked with women’s rights.
Marches took held on Wednesday in Thailand and Indonesia, where a few dozen women gathered in front of the country’s parliament to encourage lawmakers to adopt a long-awaited bill to protect domestic workers and some screamed “long live Indonesian women”.
There are numerous reasons to protest, including the Taliban government’s ban on women attending Afghan universities, Iran’s repression of Mahsa Amini demonstrations, new abortion rights limitations imposed by the US, and the effects of the Ukraine war on women.
According to UN chief Antonio Guterres, progress on women’s rights is “vanishing before our eyes” and will take another three centuries to achieve. He continued, “Women’s rights are being mistreated, threatened, and violated all over the world,” citing Afghanistan as an example of this. “Women and girls have been wiped from public life,” he said.
After a winter vacation, Afghan universities reopened on Monday, but only men went back to class because the Taliban government’s prohibition on women attending higher education is still in effect nearly 18 months after they seized power.
The European Union imposed sanctions on people and organizations on the eve of International Women’s Day that were thought to be in charge of violence and violations of women’s rights.
Neda Mohammad Nadeem, the minister of higher education under the Taliban, was punished for preventing women from attending college.
Also, the sanctions were directed at representatives from Iran, Russia, South Sudan, Burma, and Syria.
Rallying in favor of abortion rights
There will be marches throughout Europe, notably in France, where protesters will call for “equality both at work and in life” in about 150 towns and cities, a much bigger number than in previous years, according to organizers.
The focus of the demonstrations will be the opposition to France’s divisive pension reform, which critics claim is unjust to women.
The Emmeline Pankhurst waxwork will be unveiled at the Madame Tussauds museum in London to commemorate the day. Emmeline Pankhurst led the suffragette movement that led to the victory of women’s voting rights 120 years ago.
Demonstrations have been prohibited in other places.
To continue with demonstrations in Pakistan, where marches are criticized for spreading liberal Western values and for not respecting religious and cultural sensitivities, organizers have had to battle numerous judicial challenges.
And earlier this year, activists in communist-run Cuba who had requested permission to demonstrate were detained. Feminist organizations have since urged people to participate in a “virtual march” on social media to raise awareness of gender violence and femicides.
After the US Supreme Court’s decision in June to reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that had secured a woman’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy, feminists will mobilize specifically in support of abortion rights on Wednesday.
Recently, Hungary and Poland have eroded that right across Europe.
“We are fighting against a patriarchy… that fights ad nauseam against rights — like as the right to abortion — that we have earned through struggle,” said the manifesto of the Madrid march, which is due to begin at 1800 GMT.