No To Violence Against Women

On Sunday, 22nd May 2016 KODUK joined Dziewuchy Dziewuchom London in their protest against withdrawal of funds for the Women’s Rights Centre in Poland. The organisation has been providing legal and psychological support to women who had experienced violence since 1994. Our representative spoke at the protest. Here is the speech she made:

Let me start by paraphrasing an American women’s rights activist, Susan Brownwell Anthony: “We ask for justice, we ask for equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens, be guaranteed to us, women and our daughters forever.” This means protecting the vulnerable ones as much as ensuring equality for all of us.

We are here to protest against the withdrawal of funds for Women’s Rights Center in Poland. The excuse given? Targeting a group that is too specific. 52% of Polish population is hardly a group too specific to support, wouldn’t you agree? After all, anyone of us could become a victim of domestic, sexual violence or mobbing.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Women’s Rights Center work, they support women in the times of need, women who have been abused by their partners, raped or suffered from bullying in the workplace. Do victims of such crimes not deserve support?

Violence against women is common in Poland. According to police crime statistics 30,000 women are raped each year,  10% of female population was raped or survived attempted rape, between 700 thousand and a million are subjected to physical or sexual violence. Domestic violence is  also a serious problem. One in six women are abused by their partners, around 150 women a year die at the hands of their abusers. That’s three women a week. Are none of them a minority worth investing funds in?

In 2013 alone police recorded 87 thousand acts of domestic violence, 61 thousand perpetrators were suspected of such acts but only 11 890 attackers were convicted. 86 % of those sentenced got away with a suspended sentence while only 4% were ordered to move out of the victims’ homes.

I realise that our government officials and especially the government’s equality advisor, Wojciech Kaczmarek as well as President Duda have a rather rosy picture of the situation of women in Poland judging by their remarks during Women’s Congress in Poland. So let’s set them straight.

First of all, the equality advisor suggested that we should appreciate the beautiful roles of women such as, wait for it, being a grandmother, a nurse or a nun. Convent anyone? I am sure there are no glass ceilings in there. Might be a different case with the rest of the Catholic church though.

The equality advisor also claimed that the glass ceiling is only a figment of women’s imagination. I guess that’s why we find ourselves in 51st place out of 145 countries in terms of gender gap according to World Economic Forum 2015 Gender Gap Report. The president in his letter backed him up by saying that we shouldn’t feel bad about women’s situation after all pay gap between men and women is smaller in Poland than Scandinavian countries. And yet, Mr President these very same countries come at the top of the gender equality index. Why? Because their governments trust and support women’s choices by providing them with education and childcare options, dividing maternity and paternity leave equally allowing women to succeed in careers other than those of a housewife, a nurse or a nun. They ensure women feel safe, respected and supported in the times of need.

Women make up 52% of Polish society, 66% of university graduates are women and yet only around two in five senior officials, managers and legislators are female. And yet only 27% of MPs and 13% of senators are women with the ruling party in power offering only 23% of their seats to women. Are we such a minority that we do not deserve equal representation?

The President claimed in his letter to the Women’s Congress that Polish women are successful in all walks of life, be it in science, politics or business. He doesn’t seem to realise that those who are, are successful in spite of the government’s efforts rather than because of them. The President himself chose to meet with Farmers’ Wives Association rather than speak to the Congress. Good to know where his priorities lie.

And since, he named Maria Skłodowska-Curie as his ultimate female hero, a Polish scientist who had to study abroad after being rejected by Polish universities for being a woman, let me end with her words: “We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.” This thing for us today is justice, equality and the right to choose.

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