The March of March 8th in Kaunas! is an opportunity to commemorate a historically significant event in relation to the women’s emancipation history – the first massive protest for women’s rights in Lithuania. This protest took place on the 17th of February, 1918, the day after Lithuania declared independence from Russia. A crowd of a thousand people took part in the campaign, demanding to include women in the Lithuanian Council. In the fall of the same year, thanks to the efforts of many women who took part in the protest and were active in Lithuanian politics, women were granted the right to vote.
However, the violence against women is still widespread both in Lithuania and globally. Violence that takes place everywhere – at home and at work, in schools and universities, in clubs and cafés, on the streets and in the parks – only confirm that legal acknowledgement of equal rights does not guarantee equal gender treatment and safety for women. According to the statistical data from 2018, in Lithuania, 8 of 10 victims of domestic violence are women. However, quite tellingly, the president of Mexico called the recent uprisings against prevailing femicide “unnecessary distraction, which only draws the attention away from more important matters.”
The difficulty at our hands is that the problem of violence and oppression is not recognized and our tools to fight against it are very limited. The violence we experience is not only physical, it is also social, emotional, economic, sexual, political… The indifference and passivity towards the various forms of violence only prove the systemic neglect. The most recent examples speak for themselves: a police officer’s advice to a young woman raped in the club’s toilet was “to drink less alcohol and stop wiggling”; a commentary by a famous dancer on the TV show was that “she asked for it” and “that’s what women do”.
Without our intervention, without the creation of solidarity and unity, we can’t expect to have a viable solution. We cannot let the church clerks, bank managers, law enforcement officers, parliamentarians and the mass media to keep deciding, what we deserve, what we must do, what we are allowed to do and where our place is.
This is why, on the March 8th, we have to remind each other that we ourselves can make the rules and that we are ready to announce: we will not accept this order! We don’t want to fear walking alone in the dark! We don’t want to be afraid to say “no” to the boss who is sexually harassing us, just because of fear of losing the job! We don’t want to be afraid to decide whether to give birth or not, we don’t want to fear for the future of our children, we don’t want to live with insecurity, instability, growing social exclusion, which makes men even more violent and abusive.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day let’s meet at the Historical Presidential Palace 14.00 and blow the red whistle as a reminder that we have the power to change the existing order of violence and abuse. As the symbol of solidarity with all the women in the world, we invite you to wear a red hat or a red scarf on your head.