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Protest or a Gateway to revolution?

“Right to choose” is one of the Human rights. But what if someday the options to choose from are scrapped?

This is what is happening in Poland, women are denied the right to choose their motherhood rather this decision is imposed on them.

Amidst this pandemic since October 22nd, thousands of Polish citizens with “women” at the heart of the protest are fighting for a cause. The umbrella term for the protests is “Women’s Strike,” though it’s not just women participating, and it’s not exactly a strike. This protest has spread in five hundred and eighty cities and towns, by one organizer’s count. In some places, including the town of Kościerzyna, with a population of twenty-four thousand, more than ten per cent of residents have taken to the streets.

To understand the cause of this anomaly let us first try to understand the political and legal system of Poland.

After the fall of Communism in 1989, the Catholic church gave crucial support to the pro-democracy movement. But while that enabled a smoother transition to democracy than in many other post-Communist countries, it left the church deeply embedded in politics and able to insist that the new government legislate the church’s position on social issues.

One of the Church’s main priorities was a law restricting abortion, which had been widely available in the Communist era.

The resulting 1993 abortion law was “like a contract between politicians and bishops,”. The law came with certain exceptions: it allowed abortions in the case of rape or incest, danger to the life of the mother, or foetal abnormality.

The present Law and Justice Party, led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski came into power in 2015 the party’s economic generosity and disgruntled nationalism combined with Catholic social conservatism won pitch among the votes hence getting re-elected this year. Even though the country's government continues to preserve the traditional gender roles, it couldn’t stop women from gaining economic and social power.

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the gender wage gap for median earners in Poland is only 10 percent, one of the smallest differentials among the group’s countries. Forty-three percent of young women earn university degrees, compared with only 29 percent of young men. When Poland joined the European Union, that brought new opportunities to work and travel in more secular countries.

In 2016 Law and justice party tried to outlaw abortion in the case of foetal abnormality, which accounts for more than 80 percent of the procedures performed each year, but failed after large protests erupted. This led the government to turn towards the constitutional court packed with party loyalists. On 22nd October 2020 same restrictions on constitutional grounds were issued.

This decision exploded the country into larger protests, these protests in turn led to the government delaying its decisions.

Yet the youngsters are not ready to step down mostly because this protest is no longer just against the abortion ban but also for equal representation of all genders (including LGBTQ+) in the society. To which once the Party leaders had claimed that homosexuality is a threat to the soul of the nation, and that the secular values of the European Union are incompatible with Polish life. According to Marta Lempart, a 41-year-old lawyer and one of OSK’s (Ogólnopolski Strajk Kobiet or All-Polish Women’s Strike) leaders, this protest is a whole backlash against a patriarchal culture, against the patriarchal state, against the fundamentalist religious state, against the state that treats women really badly. The protesters demand for the separation of church and state; more support for healthcare, small businesses and education; full judicial independence.

The protesters were subjected to excessive use of force by police officers, and have been arbitrarily detained without access to lawyers. Nils Muižnieks, Director of Amnesty International’s European Regional Office, said: “The international community is watching and stands with the women of Poland. We have seen women in Poland endure attack after attack on their reproductive rights and they have had enough. The EU and other international actors must not only speak of solidarity with Polish women and others from all walks of life who have joined them, they must call forcefully on Poland to uphold women’s rights and to protect and promote peaceful protest. The time is now.”


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