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Women's day.

rachel | 15.10.2004 19:26 | European Social Forum | Gender | Migration | Repression | Cambridge

On Thursday 14 October, at the European Social Forum there was a Women's day, which was organised by Global Women's Strike (See There purpose was to give a voice to women who are normally silenced and marginalised by our society and also by mainstream feminist movements - African women, disabled women, asylum seekers and refugees, prisoners and the mentally ill.

In the morning there was a performance of a play called "Welcome to fortress Europe", In this play asylum claims were rejected for such dubious reasons as their hands being too soft for her to have been oppressed. One woman's claim was rejected because although she had been raped by the police, this did not count as torture. Global Women's Strike members informed the audience that the play did not exaggerate - that this was the truth.

Later, there was a session called "Women Speak Out". In this meeting grassroots women - asylum seekers, domestic workers, mothers - spoke about their experiences, their organisations and their hopes.

Women asylum seekers spoke of the treatment they have recieved at the hands of the British state. They came to the UK after being raped, or completely impoverished, and found themselves abandoned by all in the UK. One woman spoke about how even though she had worked in the UK since 1999 this was not enough for the authorities who still wanted to deport her. She said "I do not deserve the treatment I have recieved in this country."

A woman from the "Association of prositutes" spoke of how how UK government policy discriminates against the most vunerable. The idea of cracking down on the trafficking of women had been used as an excuse to deport many. Immigrant prostitutes now know that if they go to the police to speak about the violence recieved at the hands of men they will be deported.

The terrible state of UK women's prisons was also discussed. A woman called Pauline spoke about how she was seeking justice for her daughter who died in prison. Her daughter was jailed for a petty, non violent, offence and was severely depressed at the time of her trial. Despite this, after being sentenced she was left in Styal. She had been promised that if sentenced she would serve her sentence in a psychiatric hospital. This did not happen. Last year 14 women (a record high) died in English prisons.

Many other women spoke, a disabled woman spoke of how disabled women's hidden work should be valued and how state benefits should not be seen as charity but as much deserved payment. There were also women from the Black Women's rape project, Wages due Lesbians, and an Iraqi woman. All of these women are normally treated as invisible, by sexist state policy, and by mainstream leftist groups. Now they have spoken out!

There were many more events later, such as a panel on Women, War and Immigration, and another performance.