By Cake Staff:
The right to reproductive healthcare became a central issue in the international women’s movement almost as soon as advancements allowed for new contraception, pre- and post-natal medical interventions, and even surrogacy. Many of these feed into feminist concerns about a person’s bodily autonomy. But even today, women are still fighting for their basic the right to make decisions about their own bodies. And on October 3, 2016, the fight became an explosive protest in Warsaw, Poland.
The Polish government, which has strong Catholic leanings, proposed a ban on abortion. This is a huge blow to women in the East European nation, for several reasons which have been summed up in this poster announcing the protest:
But perhaps the most distressing thing about this impending ban is that only 11% of Poles want it at all (ABC News reported that a pro-ban petition racked up some 450,000 signatures in a population of 38,000,000). All of this points to the religiously coded intentions of the government to control and regulate women’s sexuality and reproduction. And the women of Poland know this.
So they organized large demonstrations in key cities like Kraków, Warsaw, Gdańsk, Łódź, and Wrocław. In Warsaw alone, authorities estimated somewhere between 17,000 and 30,000 people had turned up for what demonstrators have termed the #CzarnyProtest. ‘Czarny’ is the Polish word for “black,” and if you take a gander at any of the photos from Monday, you’ll see what is essentially a sea of black, as women donned the colour in mourning for the loss of their reproductive rights.
Many online expressed their support for the women protesting in Poland:
— Sol Trumbo Vila (@Soltrumbo) October 3, 2016
Feminist vlogger and educator Laci Green tweeted this:
YESSS solidarity, poland!! 💪 | Polish women in black shut down government offices in protest at draft abortion ban: https://t.co/giCaiTcAys
— Laci Green (@gogreen18) October 3, 2016
And even actor Juliette Binoche lent her support to the protests:
— Juliette Binoche (@JulietteBinoche) October 3, 2016
And Polish women themselves began to flood Twitter with photos of themselves, and other photos documenting the issue and demonstration:
— SaurusLex (@lexi_czarkowska) October 3, 2016
A TV debate on abortion and women’s rights in Poland. Seven men and not a single woman. Will this ever change? pic.twitter.com/M8ihArJSTO
— Iwona Reichardt (@iwonareichardt) October 2, 2016
— spooky black (@neednoshows) October 3, 2016
— 104% tired (@petla_) October 3, 2016
— Ilmariel (@Ilmariell) October 3, 2016
So on Monday, many universities and offices were shut, and even small businesses put up signs saying they were observing the strike. All of this was inspired by a massive pro-equality strike by Icelandic women back in 1975, which literally shut down their entire country for a day. But even though there are decades separating the two events, the catalysts for both were stale patriarchal ideologies that absolutely need to go:
— Aku Varamäki (@akuvaramaki) September 24, 2016
— Evvie Jo (@EvvieJo) October 3, 2016
— Martins (@martins_92) October 3, 2016
The fact that women have to go on strikes in order to be able to control THEIR OWN lives is disgusting. #blackprotest
— theunfocused (@theunfocusedd) October 3, 2016
can’t believe that we actually have to fight for our rights, it’s fucking 2016 #czarnyprotest
— mila (@himynameismiIa) October 3, 2016
— ღWe Are XღAdaChanღ (@AdrianaWeronika) October 2, 2016
The issue of reproductive justice has been in the political sphere, particularly in ever since the historic 1973 Roe. v. Wade judgement in the United States, which legalized abortion. In India, the recent Bombay High Court judgement allowing women to terminate a pregnancy on their own terms has also been lauded as a landmark victory for reproductive rights. It is amazing and inspiring to see the women of Poland come out in such large numbers to demand what is due to them – the right over their bodies and the end of patriarchal control. This protest comes only a few weeks after Saudi women demanded much the same, launching their own protest against their kingdom’s male guardianship system. And until such time as women all over the world enjoy true freedom, we hope these protests continue.