Women around the world should unite against dictatorship: discussion with participation of human rights defenders from different countries held in Kyiv

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During the international conference “Crimea Global. Understanding Ukraine through the South” in Kyiv on October 14, a discussion was held about the impact of war and violence during it on women from different countries. 

At the event, speakers from Iran, Mexico, India and Ukraine talked about social and political processes that are similar in these countries and that determine the role of women. 

Head of Human Rights Centre ZMINA, the event moderator, Tetiana Pechonchyk, noted that the full-scale war in Ukraine led to a decline in the struggle for the rights of Ukrainian women. After February 24, 2022, Ukrainian women have to do housework and raise children on their own because many schools and kindergartens in the country are closed. In addition, most of the refugees are women with children. And this is also a trial for women. 

Pechonchyk also noted that 60,000 women currently serve in the Ukrainian army, including 40,000 at the front. According to the human rights activist, Ukrainian women have taken on a lot of responsibility. 

But a separate critical issue is war crimes, including sexual crimes, against women committed by occupiers during the full-scale war. 

Famous Indian human rights defender, feminist and writer Kavita Krishnan noted that Russia and India have similar anti-democratic policies aimed, in particular, at suppressing women’s rights. 

Women in India often face violence. And this happens, among other things, because of patriarchal attitudes in society,” Kavita Krishnan said. 

She is convinced that women from different countries are going through similar experiences and, therefore, should stand in solidarity. 

But for full solidarity, we have to correct one nuance that some well-known feminists are promoting. We should abandon the idea of peace for the sake of peace, particularly in the context of the war in Ukraine. After all, it doesn’t work,” the Indian activist believes. 

As Iranian human rights defender Samira Ardalani said, the situation of women in Iran is one of the most difficult in the world. According to her, Iranian women feel second-class compared to men. 

Women are unprotected on the street, even when walking. Despite the harsh punishments for assaults on women, they still happen. There is no convention that would protect the rights of women in Iran. Thousands of women, from teenagers to even pregnant women, were executed, many of them were raped,” Ardalani said. 

At the same time, according to the human rights activist, it is Iranian women who have been at the forefront of the fight for human rights in the country for 40 years. And Ukrainian women are an extraordinary source of inspiration for them. 

We should learn to work together – with the forces of women from all over the world. We should not support reconciliation with dictatorial regimes. We should act as a united global front,” Ardalani is convinced. 

Hannia Novell, a famous Mexican journalist, scientist and writer, defender of women’s rights, presented a film about the killing of women in Mexico during the discussion. The film tells that 27,000 women and girls were killed between 2015 and 2023. In Mexico, women are killed just because they are women. Women are attacked, beaten, kidnapped, and the bodies of murdered women are simply buried. According to the data presented in the film, 1,735 hidden burials were found in Mexico in 2020-2022. 

Police do not investigate crimes against women. The law enforcement system does not respond to cases of rape or beating or says that nothing happened. We are forced to shout for our rights. My voice is a cry in the silence to defend myself,” Novell said. 

She also called on women of different countries to unite: “We should not remain silent and tolerate being killed or forced to stay at home. We should condemn war crimes against women. Our voices should be heard all over the world.” 

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This event was held with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation.