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25 November – “Zero Tolerance for Violence against Women”

29 November, 201225 November, the International Day to Combat Violence against Women, was commemorated in Istanbul with a series of events over several days.

The events were kicked off with a rally at Taksim Square, where women from the Women’s Coordination Platform in Turk-Is trade union confederation set balloons free with the slogan, We Are Trade Unionists, We Condemn Violence.  And the days of action ended on Sunday evening when thousands of members of women’s organizations, trade unions and political parties gathered in Taksim Square.

The women’s platform also supported actions carried out by the Airlines union Hava-Is to reinstate the 305 workers fired by Turkish Airlines for fighting for their rights. Two-thirds of those dismissed were women.

Violence against women takes many forms. It can be violence in the form of being fired for fighting for rights, it can be denying maternity leave, it can be poverty, it can be women dying in a textile factory burning to the ground in Bangladesh, it can be battering, beating, harassment, murder.

Women’s rights advocates in Turkey have calculated that the number of murders of women rose by 1400 percent from 2002 to 2009. A recent survey revealed that 42 per cent of women in Turkey suffer physical or sexual violence at the hands of their husband or partner.  Violence against women is a near-daily phenomenon in Turkey, with spouses, boyfriends or husbands regularly beating or killing the women in their lives.

Nevertheless Turkey does not need to be singled out. Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten. Domestic violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year in the US alone—the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs. In Brazil domestic violence affects four out of ten women and in Spain one woman dies each week, mostly at the hands of her partner. Evidence shows that the violence is going up in the wake of the crisis, but the crisis is not its only cause.

In the meantime trade unions are taking up violence against women as a trade union issue, not only in the fight against sexual harassment and bullying at work, but also to eliminate domestic violence. Women who suffer from violence are not likely to participate in trade unions, nor are they likely to get involved in trade union struggles. That is why more and more trade unions are taking a stand against violence against women on 25 November and every day.