Women's Fightback, Feminism

US feminists protest against Kavanaugh appointment

Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s nominee to take the recently retired Justice Anthony Kennedy’s place on the US Supreme Court, is in the eye of a media storm. Feminists in the US already had cause to regard Kavanaugh as a serious threat to women’s rights: the fate of Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that made abortion lawful until the point of viability, hangs in the balance. Now two sexual assault allegations give us further, chilling reasons to consider Kavanaugh a danger to women. The first allegation is from Dr Christine Blasey Ford, a psychologist and professor of...

How not to criticise religion

Tory politician Boris Johnson has provoked a scandal by writing, in a Daily Telegraph article opposing Denmark's ban on Islamic face veils, that women who wear them“look like bank robbers” and “letter boxes”. There have been calls from within his own party for disciplinary action to be taken against him, with many arguing (fairly, on the evidence) that his comments are expressive of a deep seam of anti-Muslim bigotry in the Tory party. Others have defended Johnson with claims that he was simply defending “liberal values”, and that the right to criticise religion and religious practise must be...

A split in Iraqi socialist group

Nadia Mahmood of the Worker-communist Party of Iraq spoke to Martin Thomas about a split within her organisation. Nadia: The resignation of our comrades Muayad Ahmed and Yanar Mohammad was announced after the central committee’s decision to take away Falah Alwan’s membership of the party. MT: There must have been some political issues behind it, like the referendum? Nadia: We always have different political views in our party. We always take decisions based on votes. That is basic. As regards the referendum, we had our differences but we set them out. So it wasn’t an issue. And the referendum...

Sheffield Labour debates Spearmint Rhino

On Tuesday 19 June Sheffield City Council Licencing committee held a public meeting to discuss the continuation of the Sexual Entertainment Venue (SEV) licence, which allows the adult entertainment venue Spearmint Rhino to operate in the city. Throughout the day there were eloquent arguments presented, including a testimony from a worker and her positive experiences of working in the sexual entertainment industry. Many of the opposition arguments were formulated around “the fact that the premises are sited in a residential area” and the Public Sector Equality Duty and gender equality (PSED)...

Why Greer is wrong about sex and rape

Germaine Greer has once again made the headlines. This time it was for calling for the punishment for rape to be reduced. Speaking at the Hay Literary Festival she argued that rape trials rarely end in convictions, so the courts should simply believe the victim and lower the penalty to alternatives like community service or for rapists to have an “r” tattooed on their body. There is a general consensus amongst large parts of society that the state’s handling of rape cases — the big majority brought by women — is extremely flawed. However, Greer’s proposal shows a serious misunderstanding of...

Upskirting and the law

On 15 June Conservative MP Sir Christopher Chope got up in the House of Commons to object to a private member’s bill seeing to legislate against “upskirting”. This is the practice of taking photos up peoples’ skirts. The Voyeurism (Offences) Bill, the result of an online petition set up by Gina Martin, herself a victim of upskirting, seeks to amend the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to criminalise the practice where the purpose is to obtain sexual gratification or cause humiliation, distress or alarm. The absence of a specific criminal offence of upskirting in England and Wales has been described as...

Now win abortion rights in Northern Ireland

On Friday 25 May the people of the Republic of Ireland voted to repeal the “eighth amendment” to the constitution, righting a wrong which for almost 35 years had put women′s lives in danger by banning access to abortion even more tightly than it was before under 19th century law. The vote to repeal was carried by 66.4%, with just Donegal voting not to repeal. Opinion polls have shown majorities in favour of repeal for several years. However the organisation and mobilisation by the anti-choice lobby for the referendum was substantial. It makes the large majority for repeal a very significant...

The Third Irish Revolution?

Have you heard the ultimate “Irish” joke? In a referendum on a united Ireland the Protestant Unionists of north-east Ulster campaign for “no” on the grounds that the South is too liberal. The people no longer fear God, maybe scarcely believe in God, and refuse to listen to their spiritual advisers. The two-to-one vote on 25 May to rip up the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution — entrenched there by a referendum in 1983 — was a great empowering and liberating event for the women of Ireland, Mná na hÉireann. Legislation to allow abortion will soon follow. The yes vote in the referendum on...

“11 women a day travel from Ireland for an abortion”

Polly Barklem from the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign (personal capacity) spoke to Solidarity about the referendum in Ireland on 25 May, on repealing the 8th Amendment to the Irish constitution. That amendment effectively gives a foetus equal status in law with a woman, and often results in medical professionals refusing to carry out abortions even in situations where they are legal, i.e. when the woman’s life is in danger. You can find out more about the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign online at londonirisharc.com What is the current situation for women who need an abortion? The...

The lessons of Repeal the 8th

Elizabeth Butterworth reviews Repeal the 8th, edited by Una Mullally (2018, Unbound press) Viewing the Repeal movement from my little shared one bed in north London, it’s easy to romanticise the struggle of my Irish sisters. Many aspects of the Repeal movement deserve to be extolled and are genuinely moving. Whether Irish Repeal activists win or lose the referendum on 25 May – and it looks from the outside like they may win – the Repeal movement can provide useful lessons for activists around the world. Repeal has produced and inspired art, poetry, essays, stories and comedy and imbued scores...

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