In the era of austerity and capitalist crisis, women are struggling against their oppression. Women are taking action - marching, striking, getting organised.
The weak Tory government has not launched a major offensive against women's legal rights as it would provoke a mass opposition movement. But that is not to say that women's rights and conditions are not under enormous attack. It's estimated that 86% of the burden of austerity falls on women. But women are fighting back.
In Glasgow, a strike for equal pay for the home care workers in October 2018 delivered a £500 million settlement. At the victory rally, the mainly women workforce recognised the importance of the support they had, especially the solidarity action by the mainly male refuse workers.
Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi women) organise to challenge Tory changes to the state pension age that disproportionately impact women born in the 1950s.
In many other struggles and strikes women are often to the fore - in housing campaigns, in the climate strikes, against schools funding cuts, and fighting cuts, closures and privatisation of public services from respite care to youth services to refuge closures.
The 'MeToo' hashtag has brought wide attention to sexual harassment on campuses, at work, on the streets. The Google workers' global walkout showed how the potential anger on this issue to be channelled into workers' action.
All women suffer sexism in class society. Working-class women suffer doubly - as women and as workers. But what makes working-class women most important is that they are part of the class that has the potential to be the agent of socialist change to end the capitalist system and, therefore, to end the inequality, racism, homophobia and sexism which are inherent in capitalism.
Here we draw up a ten-point programme for discussion on what is necessary to end women's oppression.
For women, austerity is a 'quadruple whammy'. As women are the majority in the public sector workforce, the cuts to jobs, wages and pensions hit hard. Women also tend to suffer more when services and benefits are cut, and are left filling in the gaps as state services are withdrawn. As women's economic independence is eroded, the ability to flee domestic violence is threatened. Meanwhile funding for women's refuges has been cut.
Lack of affordable housing can force women to stay in abusive relationships. Female street homelessness is rising more quickly than the overall rough sleeping population. Over half of NHS admissions and 77% of the NHS workforce are women
Over a third of the female workforce, representing 3.6 million workers, earns less than £15,000 a year. Poverty pay has a knock-on effect in old age with over 300,000 pensioners condemned to poverty. Almost half of lone parents live in poverty, the majority of them women.
More than half of female students have suffered some form of sexual harassment on campus resulting in the victims avoiding lectures and seminars. More than half of women workers have faced sexual harass ment in the workplace. Resisting sexual harassment at work is even more difficult on a zero-hour contract.
An estimated 54,000 women a year are sacked by employers as a result of getting pregnant or taking maternity leave. 44% of working mothers earn less than before they became pregnant. The 3.5 million women workers aged 40-50 find employers unsympathetic to their menopause symptoms. Pregnancy and the menopause are trade union issues.
Every week two women are killed by a partner or ex-partner. Every day over 90 women and 94 children are turned away from domestic violence services because of funding cuts, closures and lack of affordable housing. A fundamental change in how society is run is needed to end violence against women altogether.
It is estimated that in Britain only 15% of all rapes are reported to the police, and only 7% of those result in conviction. Of all the women killed globally almost half are killed by their partners or family members.
Although the 1967 Abortion Act was an important victory, women are still denied the real right to choose when and whether to have children. In Northern Ireland a mass movement and an independent working-class political voice is needed to fight for access to safe, free and legal abortion. The housing crisis, low pay and lack of affordable childcare can make having children a more difficult choice. Austerity means that 37% of children will be living in poverty by 2024.
Women need fighting trade unions and a political voice against austerity and fighting for jobs and better pay and terms and conditions. For trade unions this starts with a programme of fighting cuts, resisting the anti-trade union laws, and building democratic and inclusive structures. The Blairites offer no alternative to austerity which is planned poverty for the working class.
Ending violence, discrimination and oppression against women requires a fundamental transformation in the way that society is structured and organised. Through democratic workers' control and management of the major banks and corporations - moving away from a system based on inequality and exploitation to one founded on equality and co-operation - it would be possible to not just end the economic problems which women face, but to prepare the ground for eliminating sexism and cultural oppression too. Movements towards collective action by workers, including the vital building of a mass workers' party will be critical steps in the struggle for socialism.
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