10 women-led protests that shook the world in 2018

10 women-led protests that shook the world in 2018

The avid social media user in India would have definitely come across the brilliantly shocking images of the Indian map lighting up to the #MeToo movement. Many of the uninitiated would have pondered if this map was just another glorified photoshopped WhatsApp forward of Diwali night.

Me too rising India
Photo credit: MeTooRising.com

No one could have prepared for the storm on Twitter where women and sexual minorities were taking to the medium to report  cases of sexual harassment, violence and trauma. India’s #MeToo moment was an awakening for many to talk about and wipe the dust off the unreported, the invisible cases of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). The movement renewed conversations on consent, sexual harassment, safety at the workplace, intimate partner violence, but shook age old patriarchal foundations that exist in our offices, our academic institutions, public spaces and homes. 

But beyond the digitalscape, this year also witnessed many lesser known global protests led by women that demand the world’s attention. On 16 Days of Activism, we want you to know about at least 10 protests where women made sure their voices reverberated to demand a safer, violence free world for all. 

What is 16 Days of Activism? 

In an effort to create conversations around violence against women and girls and move towards a future where VAWG is eliminated, the UN Women created the concept of 16 Days of Activism. 16 days in a year-starting from 25 November, the International Day for the elimination of Violence against women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day-are used by activists worldwide as a clarion call against gender-based violence. Oxfam India, its partners and networks is marking the ’16 Days of Activism’ with a groundswell of frontline and active campaigning. A multi-pronged campaign on breaking the silence on violence at homes is spread over these 16 Days in Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Let’s take a closer look at the prominent protests on gender-based violence worldwide.


spain women protest

Thousands of protestors, largely women, wore purple t-shirts and marched through Madrid and other prominent Spanish cities to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and carried banners saying "For Those Who Are not With Us" and “Justice". Earlier this year, Spain also witnessed a women’s strike against against gender inequality. On International Women’s Day Spanish women went on strike protesting against sexual discrimination, domestic violence and the wage gap . They did not go to their paid jobs, especially those who were teachers and educators, and did not do any housework and even child-rearing for the whole day!


Photo Credit: Andina

Women came out on streets in Argentina in favour of the bill proposed in the parliament that would legalise abortion where earlier it was illegal except in the case of rape, abnormality or threat to the life of the mother. An astounding 1 million women took to the streets and gathered before the congress building in Buenos Aires to demand the legalisation of abortion. A large number of women wore green bandanas around their necks as a symbol of support for decriminalisation of abortion. The bill passed the lower house of the legislature but it faces an uphill battle in the more conservative Senate. The bill is part of a broader women’s rights movement, “Ni Una Menos”  meaning “Not One Less” which is directed at stopping violence against women, including murder.


Photo credit: Ozan Kose/AFP

Women chanted phrases like “We are not silent, We are not weak, We are not obeying” and “Women are stronger together” and also waived signs during a demonstration where hundreds of women gathered in Istanbul’s Tunel Square demanding greater women’s rights and denouncing violence against women. Online database called Monument Counter stated that atleast 337 women were killed by domestic violence in Turkey in the 2018 alone.


seoul protest
Photo credit: Getty

South Korean women took to streets wearing bright red hoodies and T-shirts chanting slogans and holding signs saying “courage to be uncomfortable” and “uncomfortable courage changes the world”. The problem of hidden cameras has become a major issue in South Korea. From upskirt photos on the subway to images taken from inside public toilets, hidden camera sex crimes are the cause of much anger and concern among South Korean women. They were seen carrying placards and banners with messages like "My life is not your porn", the women were mostly teenagers or in their 20s - seen as the main victims of the hidden cameras. "Those men who film such videos! Those who upload them! Those who watch them! All of them should be punished sternly!" some said.


kathua unnao rape case
Photo credit: The Free Press Journal, BL Soni

In Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir, an 8-year-old girl was kidnapped, gang-raped and killed by a group of men and police officers allegedly in a temple. In Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, a minor girl tried to commit suicide outside Chief Minister’s residence  over a complaint in which she alleged that an MLA had raped her. The girl's father was then later picked up by the police and assaulted in custody, following which he died. There were large scale protests against these two cases where the people came out so streets with the demand of making the country a safe place for women.


Chilean protests
Photo credit: REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

Thousands of people marched through the Chilean capital, Santiago, to protest against sexual harassment in universities and schools. School children joined students to demand an end to "institutionalised sexism" and violence against women on campuses and in schools. They also called for mandatory gender-equality training for students and faculty. Many of the participants donned colourful masks to show their protest and tried to keep it peaceful.


nepal protests
Photo credit: Eenadu india

Women raised their voices by participating in anti-rape protests in Kathmandu. The women donned black  demanding legal provisions which ensure harsh actions against rape-convicts. The theme of the protest was "Rage against rape". Many women said that they felt unsafe within the community owing to incidents of sexual violence against women. Many complained that there is no strong mechanism of justice system for the victims.


Ele nao
Photo credit: EFE/Fernando Bizerra Jr.

The words Ele Nao (not him) were seen on stickers and banners and were shouted by the crowds. Marches were organised on social media under the hashtag #EleNao (Not Him) against Jair Bolsonaro, a Brazilian politician who has been a hugely controversial figure in the country and has sparked outrage with his homophobic and misogynist comments. He angered women by seeking to justify a yawning gender wage gap, and argued against employing women as it was likely they would become pregnant. The organisers said "Women of Brazil, women outside Brazil, all women, it's time to join in”.


Photo Credit: CNN

Hundreds of women raised awareness about violence against women and children under the 'Total Shutdown' banner. The women marched to South Africa's parliament, Supreme Court of Appeal and other provincial and regional structures where a memorandum of demands was handed over to the government.


NousToutes Me Too
Photo credit @nous_toutes (Twitter)

#NousToutes which translates into We All i.e. women raised heat in French capital -Paris where  several of the country’s feminist groups got together and decided to take  #MeToo campaign one step further and call more attention to sexist and sexual violence against women. Apart from #Nous toutes movement Hundreds of people have marched to the Palais de Justice in Paris, demanding “justice for women” and more support from the government in the fight against domestic violence.


By Raunicka Sharma.
The author is a first year student of BBA-LLB, Symbiosis Law School, Noida and is currently working as an intern at Oxfam India.

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