A manifesto for 8 March (2021 – Romania)
The socio-economic crisis triggered by the pandemic disproportionately affects women. On March 8 – International Women’s Day – we protest in front of the Government to raise awareness for the way authorities have handled the pandemic. Their patriarchal irresponsibility has aggravated many of the problems that women face.
The incidence of sexual and domestic violence cases has increased, access to social and medical services has been hampered, domestic work and caregiving work are weighing even more on women’s shoulders, amid the closure of schools and kindergartens.
Women carry the burden of the pandemic: we work on the front lines, as healthcare workers, social workers, educators, teachers, sex workers, grocery clerks, janitorial staff, logistics or seasonal workers, domestic workers and caregivers for children, the elderly and sick, all while taking care of most of the household responsibilities.
We cross borders to escape precarious working conditions in our country, to take care of the elderly or to work in agriculture, to be able to support our families. There, however, we are left at the mercy of the employers, without any protection from the Romanian state or the host countries’ governments. At the onset of the pandemic, we were abandoned by the authorities. We had to cope on our own – with the loss of jobs, organizing our travel to and from these countries, all while being denied health insurance.
Our right to pregnancy termination or safe births is restricted. At the height of the pandemic, hospitals no longer consider our fundamental right to decide regarding our own bodies, as abortions were no longer considered essential healthcare services.
When we are sexually assaulted, we are afraid to go to the police because police officers and prosecutors reproduce the violence of society rather than fight it. The legal institutions do not represent our interests as they continue to operate under patriarchal and racist principles. And during the pandemic, the police repeatedly assaulted our communities, acting not only in a sexist way, but also in a racist way.
We are locked inside homes with abusive partners, without safe access to alternative shelters that follow Covid precautions. We are trapped in homes where aggression leaves life-long scars , with no place to run for safe shelter.
The home is supposed to be our vital space, a place of feminist demands, of our care, of our work. Home is the space where we were told to stay safe during the pandemic. But what if our home is not a safe place? Or what if we don’t have a “home”?
Many of us do not actually have homes, either because we have been forcibly evicted or because we live in precarious and overcrowded conditions without access to essential services. Housing injustice translates into the racist segregation of entire communities, isolated on the outskirts of cities, in toxic environments, dangerous to physical and mental health. It means overcrowding, unacceptable living conditions, debt on utilities payments, living with abusive people – problems that existed before the pandemic, but have now intensified.
Our essential work keeps society afloat. However, the rise in unemployment during the pandemic mainly affected women. While the number of unemployed men decreased by 4%, that of women increased by 7%. Two-thirds of those laid off were women. Most often, the work done mainly by women, although considered essential, is poorly paid and is not valued at its real value in society. Moreover, sex workers, especially those working in the street, became more precarious and more exposed to different forms of personal and systemic violence.
Those of us who have small children at home have found ourselves overwhelmed by domestic work. After the closure of schools and kindergartens, our mental health and ability to work were put to the test. Fatigue, anxiety, stress, and depression have caused collective trauma in recent months. It was even harder for single mothers because they face a higher risk of poverty than their married peers.
The health crisis has exacerbated all these problems. But we know what we don’t want: we don’t want a return to the “normal” before the pandemic. We reject the “normal” in which profit is put before people, communities, and the environment! We reject the “normal” in which debt, poverty, and inequality are deepening!
We firmly oppose the recent wave of austerity measures, and any economic and fiscal policies that negatively affect those already facing poverty, precariousness and vulnerability. We demand funding for health, education and social policies. We are tired of having our lives, rights and needs ignored. We are tired of institutional sexism, classism, and racism turning us into second-class citizens.
#ThanksForTheFlowers, but this March 8th, we want security and respect for women’s rights, work and dignity.
ESSENTIAL WORK AND CARE WORK
- The allocation of 10% of GDP for Health and 6% of GDP for Education;
- The increase of the national minimum wage to at least the minimum living wage for a decent living – 3000 lei net/month, to reduce the poverty for the most vulnerable;
- Fair payment for those who work in the healthcare system and social assistance (mostly women);
- The immediate decriminalization of sex work. Not recognizing sex work as work, along with criminalization and the lack of labour rights, leads to precarity and increased exposure to acts of violence towards sex workers, and can contribute to the total loss of income or housing. It also impedes access to legal protection or social benefits, and allows additional police abuse through fines and physical/verbal violence, especially against street sex workers, peculiarly trans and/or Roma women.
- Subsidies for single mothers;
- Financial support for children whose parents work abroad;
- Prioritized financing for the construction of nurseries and kindergartens across the country;
- Explicit mention of women and measures dedicated to them in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan;
- Immediate decriminalization of sex work and its recognition as real work to allow sex workers to benefit from social protection and social benefits, as well as protection from police abuse.
HEALTH AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS
- Universal access to essential medical services (tests and treatments, abortions, therapy) and fully covered treatments for people with chronic diseases, mental health issues, or a precarious economic situation;
- Spaces for the development of self-help communities (community centers, support groups, etc.);
- Sex education for young people adapted to their age and needs;
- Ensuring access to menstrual sanitary products and contraceptive products (by eliminating taxes, introducing free distribution in schools and medical offices);
- Training of medical and psychiatric staff in an intersectional and queer feminist spirit, anti-sanist, anti-ableist, and anti-racist, for interaction with queer, trans, or non-binary people, sex workers, or people in non-monogamous relationships.
DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE
- Priority public funding for care centers and emergency shelters for women survivors of domestic violence;
- Ensuring the access of all women to justice, including during the state of emergency or alert;
- The development of clear intervention procedures in cases of domestic violence, when the victim or aggressor is infected with COVID-19;
- The specific management of cases of sexual assault with minor victims (concrete intervention procedures, specialized training, mandatory DNA testing, etc.);
- The introduction of the electronic monitoring system for domestic and sexual aggressors;
- Automatic notification of the responsible state institutions and prompt investigation whenever they find out that there are cases of sexual acts with minors.
- Ongoing staff training from the General Inspectorate of Romanian Police, Forensic Medicine Institute, health services, social services, lawyers, and magistrates who are dealing with cases of female victims or survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Inclusion in all types of human rights information training (including concepts related to ethnic identity, gender, intersectionality, multiple discrimination).
- The development of psychological services for aggressors
- Immediate relocation of people who have gone through domestic violence;
- The stop of evictions from homes;
- Elimination of rents to the state. Private rent control;
- Universal and unrestricted access to all utilities, regardless of the contractual situation or debts;
- Housing and socio-medical services for homeless people;
- Adequate and financially accessible housing for all, without overcrowding and precarious conditions. Housing is a right, not a commodity!
Misogyny – the other pandemic!
Photo: The poster of the 8 March 2021 protest, which will take place in Bucharest (source: Facebook)
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