Women in Foreign Policy: Women's rights and gender equality are now one of the world's fault lines

It is women's responsibility to put the world back on the trajectory of gender equality when it is running wildly against equality. We will continue our common struggle against the climate of war and conflict, against fascist governments, there is no other way. We will win the struggle for equality in the end, but it seems that it will only take some time.

Social media violence was on the agenda even during Eid al-Fitr. Another racist and sexist attack. Başak Demirtaş is the target again. The incapable, who cannot tolerate the sight of strong women, have again embraced the policy of threatening sexual assault. 

On April 11, online news outlet Bianet published a news article titled "Reaction to sexist attack on Başak Demirtaş: We condemn".

"On social media, a man named A.T. published a sexist post targeting Başak Demirtaş" Bianet said and reported the support messages for Başak Demirtaş from many prominent women and women's organizations. 

Most importantly, it provided a lesson on the principled attitude that should be observed when providing support to women who have been attacked and reporting on incidents. For this reason, it is worth bringing the news to the attention of media members, writers, illustrators and reporters. The simple but humane approach of refraining from sharing sexist remarks and images should become widespread.

Yes, Başak Demirtaş is not alone in two senses. Both because there are many who support her and stand by her side. And unfortunately, she is not alone because of the similarity and prevalence of attacks against women all over the world. Authoritarianism and religionism are on the rise around the world. Racism and sexism, as twin sisters, have immediately entered into an alliance with these regimes. Fueled by militarism, they set out to build an anti-woman world. Violence is the only policy they know and gender-based violence is their most important political tool. Let us follow the subject from the experts because they are watching the whole world for us and recording it in academic articles. As every year, on March 18th, the 2023 Almanac was published by the Women in Foreign Policy Initiative.

The foreword written by Zeynep Alemdar shows that the world is heading towards sexism: “2024 came with its own challenges. Women's rights and gender equality now constitute world's fault lines. Protecting the rights of women and girls and all marginalized groups during conflicts is no longer a generally accepted norm. On the contrary, authoritarian, populist and conservative governments do not shy away from discriminating women's rights. The abortion bans in the USA, the anti-LGBTI stance in some EU member states and Russia, the Istanbul Convention, which is being discussed not only in Turkey but also in some Council of Europe and EU member states through a disinformation campaign, are the most obvious indicators of this anti-gender trend.”

In addition to these realities that we observe in life, being informed about new developments and studies makes it possible to strengthen the hope of struggle. For example, Tuba Bayar's article "The International Criminal Court's Policy on Gender-Based Crimes" in the Almanac covers an important development. The International Criminal Court used not to deal with gender-based crimes of violence, but this has now changed. Women and girls being subjected to violence simply because of their gender and because of gender inequality is now a matter of interest to the Court. In addition to women and girls, it can be said that we have a new international mechanism in the fight against violence against marginalized groups, LGBTI+ individuals, as well as all social segments that go beyond the narrow patterns established by patriarchal gender roles.

Let me continue with a technical detail from Tuba Bayar's article: As explained in Article 25 of the preamble to the Rome Statute (1998), the main role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is to combat impunity and establish individual criminal responsibility. Article 54(b) states that the duty and competence of the Prosecutor is to “take into account the nature of the crime, in particular where it involves sexual violence, gender violence or violence against children.” Under the definition of the four international crimes mentioned in Part 2 of the Rome Statute, gender-based crimes are variously specified. For example, the definition of crimes against humanity includes persecution against any distinct group or community, including gender (Article 7b). Under both the definitions of war crimes and crimes against humanity, sexual crimes such as sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced sterilization are covered (Article 7.1(g), Article 8.2 (b.xxii), Article 8.2 (e.vi).

The author states that despite the legal background I quoted above, the Court (ICC) took steps to develop a policy on sexual and gender-based crimes after the erroneous Katanga decision in 2014 in order to prevent such a mistake from happening again. When Prosecutor Kharim Khan shared the policy document in December 2023, the Court's commitment to the world to prevent impunity and accountability for gender-based crimes was strengthened. Considering the difficulties in the implementation of national laws and international conventions on sexual and gender-based crimes and the reluctance of practitioners, it should be known that there is still a long way to go for the realization of the ICC commitment. But the existence of a mechanism that has taken shape is priceless. It will be possible to transform this mechanism, which was shaped by the struggle of international women, into a well-functioning system through women's struggle.

It is women's responsibility to put the world back on the trajectory of gender equality when it is running wildly against equality. If the last three hundred years of the world are examined, it will be seen that the power to reshape the world is inherent in women's struggle. The history of feminism is also the last three hundred years. And even though it is understood to be specific to the West, I have no doubt that we will succeed with the power we get from our “witch” grandmothers, who we know from the stories of their extermination that they exist in every culture and in every age. But today, but tomorrow, but one day for sure, the world will be put back on the orbit of equality through feminist policies and struggle. If gender equality is not achieved, there will be nothing left of human rights, labor rights or children's rights.

That’s why, organized women's struggles for equality need to decipher and expose anti-feminist initiatives. The new patriarchy, unlike the traditional patriarchy we know, is focused on opposing feminism. Today's rising sexism is not a straightforward anti-womanism. Women and organizations that produce feminist policies and adhere to feminist principles are under attack. Women and organizations waging a feminist struggle against the new patriarchy do not have the luxury of competing with each other. It is possible and imperative to stop this counter-revolution by adhering more closely to our principles, which have been demonstrated by experience throughout the history of feminism, and by building intersectional networks.

The sexist attack on Başak Demirtaş, the presentations of women's organizations from around the world at the Women, Peace, Security Agenda at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UN-CSW) meetings in March, and the 2023 Almanac have inspired me such thoughts. I should note that Women in Foreign Policy is an organization of a new generation of feminists strengthened by the experiences of women who have been carrying the feminist struggle into the field of diplomacy for at least a hundred years. This experience, which is passed down from generation to generation, transforms supranational structures and touches the daily lives of each and every one of us in our homes and villages.

Women of every religion, language, culture, politics, race and ancestry, we will continue our common struggle against the climate of war and conflict, against fascist governments, there is no other way. We will win the struggle for equality in the end, but it seems that it will only take some time.