Women have been fighting for their rights and equal opportunities since the 18th century. Their silence and serfdom to men had been diminished as more brave women expressed their anger and wrath. Let’s imagine the struggle of not being able to decide for yourself, being completely dependent on men in society. The role and purpose of women was strictly constrained by their family or husband. The treatment of a real human being as a possession was nothing unfamiliar or controversial. In fact, it was a long-term, every day agenda. The worst part of it all was that after centuries these approaches have become a part of society’s tradition. Its influence can be spotted even in modern times, as women still have to fight for their rights. A period in history, which greatly contributed to the development of feminism and equality between both genders, was the French Revolution. Women quickly acknowledge the chance to introduce equal rights during those turbulent times. Philosopher Nicolas de Condorcet is considered to be the first to have introduced the concept of feminism in his work from 1789. Mary Wollstonecraft published “Fight for women’s rights” and a year later Olympia de Gouges released “Declaration of women’s rights” for which she was sentenced to death. Industrial revolution was the second main milestone on the path to equality. As more factories began to open, family situation, routine and relationship between men and women gradually changed. The taste of independence and freedom made more women jealous and motivated to take further action. In 1857 the Church of England allowed for divorce in some particular cases. The famous Women’s Suffrage Movement started in Great Britain at the end of the 19th century, its aim was to fight for women’s right to vote. The statements proposed by the Movement were considered as controversial and initially did not have many supporters. It was commonly argued that “a man is the head” of the family and he is the one to decide about his children. Women were basically not an active part of society. For many the demands of the Women’s Suffrage Movement were taken as an attack on traditional family values.
The Women’s Suffrage Movement spread all over the world. In 1917 an immense parade took place. More than a million women, carrying placards with signatures and posters walked the streets of New York. Three years later, after many years of fighting to be heard, the Nineteenth Amendment (which stated that citizens of both sexes can vote) was introduced as part of the Constitution of the United States.
1893 – New Zealand 1902 – Australia 1906 – Finland 1908 - Denmark 1913 – Norway 1915 – Island 1917 – Canada, Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, Uruguay 1918 – Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Austria, Great Britain, Moldavia, Azerbaijan, Armenia 1919 – Belgium, Luxemburg, Hungary, Georgia 1920 – U.S., Albania, Czechoslovakia 1921 – Switzerland 1922 – Ireland 1924 – Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan 1927 – Turkmenistan 1930 – Turkey, South Africa 1931 – Portugal, Spain 1932 – Brasilia, Maldives, Taj land 1934 – Cuba 1937 – Filipins 1939 – Salvador 1944 – France, Bulgaria, Jamaica, Bermudez 1945 – Senegal, Togo, Italy, Yugoslavia 1946 – Djibouti, Guatemala, Romania, Japan, North Korea, Liberia, Vietnam, Venezuela 1947 – India, Pakistan, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malta, Mexico, Argentina 1948 – Israel, South Korea, Niger, Sessile 1949 – Syria, Costa Rica 1950 – Barbados, Haiti 1951 – Nepal 1952 – Bolivia 1954 – Columbia 1955 – Peru, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Ethiopia 1956 – Egypt, Gabon 1956 – Malesia 1958 – Chad, Nigeria 1959 – Samoa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Madagascar, San Marino, Brunei 1960 – Cyprus, Gambia 1961 – Paraguay, Rvanda, Burundi, Sierra Leone 1962 – Monaco, Algeria, Uganda, Zambia 1963 – Morocco, Iran, Afghanistan, Kongo, Kenia, Fiji 1964 – Sudan 1965 – Botsv1ana 1970 – Andorra 1971 –Bangladesh 1974 – Jordania 1979 – Palau 1984 – Liechtenstein 1985 – Kuwait 1989 – Namibia 1997 – Quatar 2002 – Bahrain 2003 – Oman 2006 – Saudi Arabia (partially) 2015 – Saudi Arabia
(Table presenting chronological order of granting women’s rights)
What happened in Poland?
On 22nd October 2020 the Constitutional Court adjudicated abortion in case of fetal abnormalities against Polish Constitution document. This judgment-imposed a near-total ban of safe terminations of pregnancy. However, it was not officially published in the Journal of Laws, therefore not being legally binding for next two months. Why was that? Thousands of Poles marched on the streets, including us - the authors, to show their dissatisfaction and lack of agreement for these actions manipulated by the current ruling party - Law and Justice. The protests took various forms; beginning with simply walking through major cities across the whole country and ending with spamming politicians’ mailboxes. We all shared the same goal - to defend our basic human rights. Women were not alone, husbands, seniors, medics and many other groups displayed their support for the Women’s Strike. Sometimes by a material help, sometimes by setting an overlay or a frame on the Facebook profile picture, and sometimes by just usual words of encouragement. The protests showed how enormously united we are, which gave us hope for a better future. With each gathering that took place, the police was becoming more aggressive, physically hurting the participants. Additionally, another threat that the protestors had to face were contentious men supporting the prolife movement. They were called by the vice-Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński to protect Catholic churches from being destroyed by prochoicers. Also, the situation was unfavourable due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions that allowed meetings of up to 5 people to take place, yet you could seen around 100 000 times more partakers. Elders, more exposed on the consequences of the coronavirus, stayed at home, but when the march crossed their living place, they came out to the balcony and waved. I heard a lot of versions about what happens during the strikes, while the truth I know from my own experience is that the general idea was not to lose inalienable freedom. Everyone has a different strategy of how to manifest one’s rights, and as long as it is not hurting others, why would anybody want to decide about someone else’s body?
There are two sides to every story
We already heard about the protests in Poland and fights for women’s rights, however, the protests began because there are people that don’t agree with abortion, especially connected to disabled children, and also have something to say in that case.
First, I wanted to discuss the things, that pro-abortion supporters have to say. First of all, women have a moral right to decide what to do with their bodies. Women that want an abortion will probably get it, although when it’s banned they will get it from illegal sources and put their health at risk. The situation in Poland focuses on the future disabled new-borns. Women here fight for that right mostly because if a future mother, early in the pregnancy finds out that her baby will be born with a very serious dysfunction, that could lead to death upon being born, they want to be able to decide if they want to give birth or not. A very strong argument from this side is also that our country is not able to give the amount of money the mother needs for a disabled child to have a healthy life.
Now, focusing on the other side, the side of the prolife supporters. The main argument we hear in being pro-life, is that that abortion takes away a chance for someone to live. A lot of people who are against abortion say that abortion leads to depression and even suicide because a women is not capable of living after removing a foetus, which could potentially have a life in the future. Another argument is that the foetus feels pain during abortion. It is also argued that abortion somehow reduces fertility. A very strong argument is that even a disabled child should have the right to live.
Recently, a wave of anti-abortion posters has flooded the largest cities in Poland - Warsaw, Kraków and Poznań. The number of towns involved in this advertising campaign is now 11 cities, and their number is still growing. Since November, residents can come across posters everywhere - they hang at stops, buildings or information poles. Fundacja Nasze Dzieci-Edukacja, Zdrowie, Wiara, an organization established in Silesia with the intention of helping children from the educational, social, psychological and cultural side is responsible for the campaign. The foundation helps local youth on a daily basis, but in October, the president of the organization, Mateusz Kłosek, decided to organize a campaign on a much larger scale. The chairman of the foundation is himself an active activist to ban abortion in Poland, which he emphasizes in the Catholic magazine " Miłujcie się ", where he is also a board member. Thanks to Kłosek's actions, over 1,500 posters showing a child in the womb were hung in Polish cities. The posters do not have any slogans, but the anti-abortion message and overtones are easy to understand. However, the most interesting element of the whole action is the author of the graphics - Russian artist Yekaterina Głazkowa. A few years ago, a woman shared an image on the internet that can be purchased as a stock image. The purchase price of such graphics ranged from one to several dollars. The seller is unable to control how many people buy the graphic and for what purposes it is used. Over the years, the graphic has achieved good sales, mostly used for women's health articles. After the posters appeared in Poland, the author was asked for opinions on the use of her graphics on anti-abortion posters. The artist expressed her surprise and dissatisfaction. She decided to explain that when creating the drawing, she did not mean the ideas promoted in our country at that moment -"I strongly disagree and am against this idea. The picture was drawn as an embodiment of the joy of motherhood, but not of forced motherhood, in which there is no question of any love or joy. These prohibitions are meaningless, harmful and violate human rights; they harm both women, as well as unwanted children. If that happened in my country, I would act to change this country. It seems that progressive humanity has already worked on the subject of abortion ban, everything has been explained, proved. Is it the Middle Ages again? "
Katarzyna Rudowska, Kinga Grzebieluch, Julia Parys and Pola Cieślukowska.