June 3rd, 2006
Coordinator of the
International Campaign Against
Chair Person of Children First Now
Speech at the 17th Annual International Conference of the Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation (IWSF)
Obstacles of the Women’s Movement for Freedom
I would like to thank The Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation for providing me this opportunity to share my thoughts and experience with respect to women’s movements.
My aim, at first was, to open a general discussion about the obstacles that women’s rights’ movement face globally but soon I realized if I relate my discussion to the most recent global movement against “Sharia Court in Canada” in which I was involved in it directly (as one of its hundreds leading activists); then one can easily trail various obstacles within women’s rights movement for freedom.
There are several
tendencies in the up rising movement against sharia court in
Today, I am not going to discuss the external obstacles that are outside of women’s rights movement for equality; as they are against this movement and we are in constant fight about this. Instead I would like to discuss the obstacles within the movement as I strongly believe these obstacles are exhausting the most progressive part of the movement that is to have a clear ambition. No doubt some of these obstacles are influenced directly by those outside forces.
One of the obstacles is that the issues of women ’s rights are considered mainly economically rather than politically,
therefore the struggle for social and political changes quickly
transmits to minimum achievement. Their political demands for extensive
intervention in economic, political, cultural and intellectual life of society
fade away. This is more visible in the West. The struggle for economic equality
in society, the struggle for equal pay for equal job duty, struggle for
for housework , struggle for social welfare and economic security, struggle for repealing
laws and regulations
that eliminate women in participating in full capacity in politics and
struggle for homosexual rights, or even struggle for total separation of
religion from state and education or obtaining rights to abortion are all being
touched or addressed by lobbying through organizations which are clearly
stating in their mission statements that they are none political and none
partisan with funds received from governments or parties in power. No wonder
when an external anti women force or movement attacks women’s rights or
children’s rights, these organizations do not challenge it at all or if they do
it will surely not be a political
challenge. Therefore part of their
activities will not be an
awareness or attempt to mobilize the whole society around that
particular political struggle. The best example I can give for this is the struggle we had against sharia court in
This trend will surely not concentrate on educating the grassroots and mobilizing them. They are not interested in involving people and the leading activists. To them the issue can be addressed by simply writing a letter to the ministries in charge and request for an explanation. They only know one avenue very well to lobby. I personally have no problem with lobbying as one of the avenues but not the only one.
Our approach at the
International Campaign against Sharia
Whilst we were relaying on grassroots and their
the support of influential people was always part of our activities. Of course lobbying has never been part of
women’s rights activists in countries with a dictatorship government, but the tendency of mentioned trend is to pursue
people that this is the only way of struggle the example of it can be seen during so called
reformist regime of
The other internal obstacle of women’s rights movement for freedom is, that the issues of women’s rights are not consider universal and therefore have no global demands.
The notion of cultural
relativism and whole notion of “minority rights” which
define women’s rights according to her cultural and tradition is no coincidence. This notion
divides the world by two. In one part exists the progressive countries with
western culture and in the
other part exist the countries with backward culture and
religions as if they are divided by the thick wall of
Unfortunately we have faced
with the same phenomenon in struggle against Sharia court in
The other obvious obstacle for the women’s rights movement for freedom is, not having focused strategy. This movement seems to have lost its ambition. It is busy with its day to day resistant. It is busy repealing the attacks which receives from various angles. In the West it seems that it is pleased for what it has but in so called not developed countries it seems that it is struggling for the most basic rights to survive to the next day. Obviously any movement that has no focused strategy with maxima list demands, any movement that does not understand the move of social and political forces exists in our society and their attempts, will never seek universal demands. This movement if it is not passive it is surely not pro-active.
The women’s’ rights movement in general does not have a firm focused strategy towards the conflict of two obvious poles- American militarism and political Islam. the activists of this movement do not take any serious actions when it realizes that the rights of women in the countries or the communities so called Islamic are under constant attack. Has no plan to stop the interference of religion with state and education even though it is growing globally.
The rights of immigrants and refugees among them women are being violated. The standard of life even in the west is descending and all parties in power in the west be it liberal or right wing conservatives are trying hard to use this condition as an excuse to enforce the new policy to investigate and interfere with the private lives of individuals, implementing the policy of censor and putting in place laws and regulations to stifle any struggle. Unions are on constant pressure and rights to strike are being limited. In these circumstances the women’s’ rights movement is not taking an active rule. And unfortunately, if it takes any stand would be in support of one of the parties on power, with respect to conflict of two obvious poles- American militarism and political Islam it either defends the American militarism or the political Islam. In general it takes no rule to demolish the root of inequality and women’s oppression. It sees men as the cause of women’s oppression and does not want to harm the system that is behind human’s exploitation, women’s oppression, repression and discrimination.
Once again in the International Campaign against sharia court in