By Agnieszka Marszalek
Since the early 1990s, women’s rights in Poland have come under severe and sustained attack, first from the Catholic Church and later aided by ultra-right national conservative organizations like the Law and Justice party, established in 2001, but with roots in the rightest political shift a decade earlier.
In response to the Polish government’s constant legal and political attacks against women, including ever more restrictive abortion laws, the All-Poland Women’s Strike (OSK) was established in September 2016. It’s founders, Marta Lempart and Klementyna Suchanow, were initiators and leaders of the abortion rights Black Protests. Black was chosen to signify mourning of the dead rights of Polish women to control their bodies. The initial mobilization amassed 10,000 protesters at the house of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ultra-right Law and Justice organization and a de facto leader, Deputy Prime Minister of Poland.
The follow-up decentralized grassroots protests last year galvanized 100,000 supporters who marched in 143 villages, towns and cities across Poland. Poland Women’s Strike activists also joined their sisters in Argentina in launching the International Women’s Strike, that mobilized women’s solidarity actions in 28 countries.
Government Repression Deepens
Despite the ongoing protests, however, the Polish government and its institutions continue to press forward with their anti-women and homophobic agenda, beginning with local governments calling for “homosexual-free zones” in their areas. In 2020 Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party approved additional anti-abortion measures including limiting the quality of women’s healthcare and undermining measures aimed at preventing violence against women and domestic abuse.
The OSK fought back with the formation of a national Coordinating Committee that organizes ongoing protests across Poland. The OSK also reached out to feminist and LGBTQ groups across Europe and around the world, while ever educating about the importance of the feminist movement and its defense of abortion rights and women’s equality – subjects that are frequently discussed and debated among social justice, socialist and communist activists.
OSK leaders also tried to engage with the various levels of the European Union Government, to date with little practical outcomes.
Polish Women Strike Demands
OSK demands include a return to the rule of law in Poland, today abrogated by the present Polish government. Other demands include:
- Full women’s rights: legal abortion-on-demand, sex education, and contraception that is free of charge at the point of use
- Interpreting the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling, as stated by the president of the tribunal, Judge Julia Przyłębska, as her personal testimony instead of a legally-binding ruling that ruled against Poland’s 1993 law legalizing abortion under some circumstances. [Przyłębska was appointed to the post by the right-wing anti-abortion Law and Justice party government. Editor].
- The return of a “real” (independent) Constitutional Tribunal
- The return to a neutral (independent) Supreme Court of Poland that is not controlled by the Law and Justice party (PiS)
- The appointment of a “real” (independent, not someone from the ruling party) Polish Ombudsman, to replace Adam Bodnar, who reached the end of his term.
Bomb and Death Threats
On March 8th, 2021, International Women’s Day, Human Rights Watch reported bomb and death threats received by at least seven women’s rights and related groups in Poland. The targeted groups reported that little or no government action was expected to be taken against the perpetrators. The bomb threats continued on March 12 and again on March 23, this time against Federa, a Polish reproductive rights group. The threats were delivered via email. Women’s Strike and the Consultative Council (an independent body that addresses the legal and policy measures during Women’s Strike protests) also received email bomb threats on March 20 and March 23.
An artistic collective that was scheduled to perform in front of the house of the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, received an email bomb threat on March 20. These threats indicate the terribly precarious state of women’s rights in Poland today.
The members of Women’s Strike and other feminist organizations in Poland fully understand that only their uniting and c collective actions can return Poland to anything resembling the rule of the law. More than that, the support of socialists, communists and social justice democratic rights groups around the world is essential to winning their struggle against discrimination and oppression. They aim to magnify their voices louder than ever! Let’s unite and support the Women’s Strike in Poland!
The OSK’s media contact person provided this writer with the list of resources below, some of which have been blocked, at least in North America.
• FP Ogólnopolskiego Strajku Kobiet (OSK – All-Poland Women Strike)
• Website: http://strajkkobiet.eu/ (blocked)
• Consultative Council: https://www.facebook.com/radakonsultacyjnaprzyosk
•Proposals of protesters and how to adapt them into daily life (continually updated): https://www.loomio.org/osk
•Campaign for Collective of a Secular Nation – by Consultative Council: https://sameplusy.info/
•Our films and transmissions of conferences:
•twitter.com/strajkkobiet also available on instagram.