March 8th: The Origin Of The Date And Why The Fight For Women's Right Is Still Necessary

1917. March 8th. In that day, a group of Russian women went to the streets to protest against the involvement of the country in World War I and the famine. Four days later, the Czar abdicated and a provisional government took the power, giving women the right to vote. After the Russian Revolution, in 1918, March 8th was celebrated in the Soviet Union as the day of “Heroic and Hardworking Woman”.

The origin of the feminist movement

Suffrage parade, New York City, May 6, 1912 | Image Source: Wikipedia Commons/American Press Association, 1912 

It was in this way that the International Women’s Day, a holiday that marks the feminist fight, arose. However, in the beginning of the twentieth century, there were already some manifestations for women’s right. In 1909, on February 28th, The Socialist Party of America made a celebration to honor the 1908 garment workers strike, that protested against dangerous labor conditions for female.

A year later, in 1910, The Socialist International, a conference with more than 100 women, from 17 countries, took place in Copenhagen and established a Women’s Day, to support women’s rights and universal suffrage.

In that time, the holiday didn’t have a fixed date, but was celebrated on March 19th in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, countries where more than a million people, including men, went into rallies, asking for the right to vote and the end of discrimination in the workplace.

In the following years, the arisen feminist fight was a way to protest against World War I, which resulted in the Russian rally on March 8th. The 1910s and 1920s were marked by protests in Europe and United States that asked for women’s right to vote.

These rallies gave results. Besides New Zealand, Australia and Finland, that legalized female suffrage in 1893, 1902 and 1906, respectively, the first country to do that was Norway, in 1913, followed by Russia, in 1917, England and Germany, in 1918, and United States, in 1920. In France, this right was reached in 1944, and in Switzerland, only in 1971.

The importance of the fight

As we can see, these achievements are very new. In 1975, the United Nations officialized the International Women’s Day. Twenty years later, in 1995, 189 countries signed The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a document that aims the implementation of gender equality and sets areas of concern, such as social disparities, unequal access to education and gender-based violence.

Even so, there is still a long way to run. In some countries around the world, rape, kidnaping and sexual discrimination are supported by law. And these crimes still happen in supposed democratic countries.

Europe is the safest continent for women, with protection ensured by constitution. However, countries such as Hungary, Bulgaria and Russia swerve from this path. In Hungary, there is no law to punish sexual assault, in Bulgaria, there is no rape between husband and wife and in Russia, there is no law against domestic violence. Again in Russia, there are 456 kinds of work, listed in the constitution, that women are forbidden to do.

This situation is repeated in other parts of the world. In China, women are not allowed to work in the mines. In Afghanistan, women only can go out of the house with permission of a man. In Sudan, girls and women are not allowed to wear pants and in Congo, Mali and Nicaragua, they need their husband’s authorization to sign up documents.

Image Source: Pixabay 

The violence is not only in the laws. According a survey done by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2018, India is the most dangerous country for women, with four cases of rape per hour. United States appears in the 10th position of the rank, with high levels of sexual harassment and psychological abuse.

These astounding numbers show how important it is to have an International Women’s Day. Although the achievements in many areas, it is necessary to remember that there is still much to be done, what must include all women in the world, from different ethnicities, religions, ages and social strata.

More than receiving flowers on March 8th and spending the day in protests, it is primordial to rise the discussion about women’s right, speaking about subjects like abortion, rape, sexual assault, inequality in the workplace and gender-based discrimination.

The currently danger

And the context couldn’t be more appropriated for this fight. If, on one hand, we have advances, with laws against rape in some of the most conservatives countries, such as Tunisia, Lebanon and Jordan, on the other, there are regressions, with the recent election of authoritarian leaders in countries like Brazil and United States.

Both Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president, and Donald Trump, USA’s president, made misogynous declarations during their campaigns. Trump, besides making offensive comments about his competitor, Hillary Clinton, annulled the federal financing for institutions specialized in abortion and sexual women’s health.

Bolsonaro, on his turn, said that women should be employed with a low salary because they could be pregnant, receive maternity leave and make the company lose money. Also, his Family, Women and Human Rights Minister, Damares Alves, is very conservative. She said, in her possession ceremony, that boys must wear blue clothes and girls, pink clothes.

Even sounding as a silly metaphor, this statement means that, in these new governments that are taking place in many countries across the world, girls and women are supposed to accept the rules the society imposes to them. It is for these situations that the feminist fight is still so important, to show women and girls that they are allowed to be whatever they want.