Solidarity Must To End Women’s Exploitation

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As Nepali political parties and the people’s representatives are once more engaged in a power struggle, the general people are struggling to improve their livelihoods and have better lives. The rights, ensured by the constitution, are still far from the reach of the citizens in general.  According to data from the Nepal Police, cases of violence against women (VAW) has been increasing during the last decade. A total of 17,790 women and girls were raped during the last ten years and it has been found that the cases of rape have been increasing by 20 per cent yearly. As the International Women’s Day (IWD), March 8, is nearing, there are several evidences seen that people who have been marginalised from equal access to state provisions based on gender, cast, class, social and economic status among others, are still grappling to get justice. 

More than a century ago, the IWD was conceptualised as an outcome of the labour movement and has now been established as a yearly event of the United Nations (UN) and several countries globally. A century later today, although there are several laws promulgated all over the world to stop all forms of discrimination based on gender, this crime is increasing day by day. Women’s labour is the most exploited today too. Although the UN has a mandate of ensuring human rights globally why are the women of Afghanistan stripped of their basic human rights? Why do women still face violence just because they choose to wear or not wear certain dress that has been made mandatory to them? 

Power hierarchy 

More than 3,000 feminists from different movements from all over the world deliberated on these issues in Nepal in February 2024 during the World Social Forum (WSF) while hosting the World Feminist Forum (WFF). They demanded immediate ceasefire in Gaza and other countries and asserted that these inequities can solely be rectified through autonomous feminist movements aimed at reshaping the power hierarchy. The WFF was organised under the leadership of WOREC, a Nepali based NGO working for women’s human rights with civil societies from all over the world.

 At the conclusion of the WFF, the more than women rights activists stated that a global feminist solidarity against structural inequalities is urgently required. The union of capitalism, neo-liberalism, and patriarchy exploits women's labour at all levels in formal and informal sectors. Women’s body has been part of global biopolitics which must end.  This has affected sex workers migrants and women working in different entertainment sectors the most. The WFF stated that this can’t be addressed without reforming current exploitative neo-liberal policies which have converted women’s work to care work and women’s bodies to a consumer profit making entity. The only path to replace this exploitative economic system is through transformative economic policies and redistributive justice system. 

Food sovereignty is a right for global citizens. This can’t be fulfilled unless the present market-led and for-profit food systems are dismantled and restored by people centric food production and distribution mechanisms. The global environmental degradation and ecological injustice is greatly impacting marginalised communities. The WFF acknowledged the interconnectedness of gender, power, and environmental injustices and demands for the urgent redesign of ecological justice to priorities feminist leadership and policy reform endorsing indigenous rights to address environmental racism and re-distribution of resources. 

Feminist knowledge is advanced through the analysis of intersecting issues, fostering the development of intergenerational leadership. To develop such leadership, young women must scrutinise the intersections of capitalism, colonialism, and patriarchy, recognising their impact on lives. WFF has expressed solidarity for building youth agency and movements to challenge and change oppressive systems through transformative feminist politics. Conflicts, intensified by militarisation and capitalism, result in resource exploitation, violence, and inequality, with disproportionate impacts on women and children. To confront this nexus, it is necessary to prioritise justice, equality, and human rights and demand for urgent ceasefire of the wars going around the world and a cap on arms production. 

Due to corporate-centric economic policies and developmental paradigms, the poor, indigenous, landless and informal settlers, rural farmers are being evicted from their land and housing settlements. This is affecting women the most. WFF commits to building the solidarity movement with women and other social movements to uphold and demand for people’s right to land and housing. Neo-liberal economy, compounded by unjust development and exportable policies, has converted people’s body into commodity leading to forced migration, refugee, trafficking and exploitation. 

Digital violence 

In today’s digital world, as the artificial intelligence is becoming an everyday reality of humans, WFF recognises that different forms of crimes are being committed digitally and globally more than 92 per cent of sexual harassment is faced by women through such crimes. The WFF stated strongly that around the globe a crisis of democracy and shrinking civic space is being faced. These are thriving through manipulated electoral systems adopted by authoritarian governments. The adherence to human rights principles and the rule of law is no longer a priority for governments and thus human right defenders are under attack. The WFF stressed that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted 75 years ago requires an update to incorporate current challenges. 

Celebrations of the IWD should not be limited to observing a ritual. It is important to reflect on the outcome of the WFF which clearly shows that the IWD movement, commenced as the first voice raised against labour exploitation of women, still has not been able to achieve its goals.  A lot have been achieved but more needs to be done to actually create a just world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. Happy IWD to all. 

(Sharma is a senior journalist and women rights advocate namrata1964@yahoo.com Twitter handle: @NamrataSharmaP)

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