REFLEKTION Olga Tokarczuks författarskap och gärning får med Nobelpriset rättmätig uppmärksamhet. Hennes röst ter sig särskilt viktig idag genom hennes humanism, tolerans, och respekt för allt levande; frågor som också genomsyrar hennes unika, inspirerande och lärda Nobelföreläsning den 7 december i Börshuset. Och som kan förväntas prägla den stiftelse till stöd för kultur som Tokarczuk vill instifta med sina prispengar.
Specialskriven text för Mänsklig Säkerhet om Tokarczuk och rättighetsarbete i Polen (här i svenskt sammandrag)
Tokarczuks landsmaninna Barbara Limanowska,visar i sin text här, specialskriven för Mänsklig Säkerhet, hur Olga Tokarczuk på 1990-talet var en inspiratör för kvinnor i Polen som efter decennier av diktatur såg möjligheter till demokrati och öppenhet. Tokarczus utmanade med sina texter redan då både traditioner och maktstrukturer – och blev både ifrågasatt och omhuldad.
Limanowska skriver om den kvinnorörelse som växte fram i Polen, till en början liten men växande under 1990-talet när civilsamhället fick möjlighet att bygga upp nya demokratiska strukturer i landet.
Kvinnorörelsen i Polen stärktes vid denna tid också av sina kontakter på global nivå, bl a med de starka röster som fick genomslag vid FN:s kvinnokonferens Peking 1995 med antagandet av en långgående handlingsplan (som bl a ålägger regeringar att aldrig urholka kvinnors rättigheter med hänvisning till religion och traditioner).
Limanowska beskriver växande högerkrafter i Polen och den katolska kyrkans stöd till det moralkonservativa partiet Lag och Rättvisa. Det innebar att ”tradition” betonas, aborträtten inskränkts och ”genus-ideologi” hånas.
Massrörelse till stöd för aborträtten
Ett förslag 2015 att ytterligare inskränka aborträtten provocerade fram en massrörelse bland kvinnor, som kom att kallas ”den svarta protesten”. Inspirerade av massprotester på Island samlades kvinnor över hela Polen vilket ledde till att Parlamentet beslutade att avvisa ytterligare inskränkningar i aborträtten.
Limanowska pekar på att partiet Lag och Rättvisa visserligen vann parlamentsvalet i oktober 2019 – men om bara kvinnliga väljares röster räknats så skulle regeringens prioriteringar vara att motverka klimatförändringar, stärka hälsovården – och extremhögern skulle inte alls vara representerat i parlamentet.
Vid valet i höstas fanns få kvinnor på valbara platser på de etablerade partiernas parternas listor, trots aktivt politiskt engagemang. Det ledde till att kvinnorna bara fått knappt 30% av platserna i parlamentet (men ca 43% bland vänsterpartierna).
Överlag i samhället finns dock numera ett utbrett stöd bland kvinnor för kvinnors rättigheter och undersökningar visar att nästan 3 av 4 kvinnor stöder feministiska krav. Bland dem, menar Limanowska, märks självklart årets Nobelpristagare, Olga Torkaczuk.
Olga Tokarszuk – a source of inspiration for promoting women’s right’s
In the 90s, when the Polish feminist movement was very small, there were close contacts between activists and young writers. All activists read books by Olga Tokarczuk and met with writers to discuss the role of the new literature and women in the changing political landscape. Today too, literature can be a strong inspiration for women’s rights. Not just in Poland but globally.
“Polish tales made of moss and ferns…”
When I learned about Olga Tokarczuk getting the Nobel prize in literature, I thought about a photo of her from thirteen years ago on the cover of the Polish feminist magazine Zadra. Tokarczuk sits in a relaxed pose, her feet resting on a table. Her hair is cut very short and she is wearing heavy combat boots.
It was not a coincidence that Tokarczuk featured in a feminist publication. When she started as a writer, she was considered part of “new women’s literature” which applied a feminist perspective to challenge both tradition and established power relations in Poland, in the new era of transformation from socialism to capitalism. Mainstream critics labelled such writing “menstruation literature”; while Tokarczuk’s books were called “tales made of moss and ferns”.
In the early 90s the women’s movement in Poland was very small. Within a decade, it had grown considerably and the Information Centre for Women’s Movement (OŚKa) cooperated with over 200 women’s groups all over Poland. The monthly OŚKa Bulletin with printed information about all feminist events organised by and for women, was listing meetings, conferences, publications, demonstrations etc. It was read throughout the country.
A boom for feminists organising
The rapid boom in feminist organisations in the late 90s was linked to the changing political climate in Poland, which strengthened the role of civil society in building democratic institutions. Its growing strength was also attributed to collaboration with the global movement for women’s rights at a crucial time. In Beijing 1995 the UN World Conference on Women gathered women from across the globe, adopting the far-reaching Platform for Action which played a critical role in enhancing women’s rights.
Things changed with the Internet and social media and when Poland became a member of the European Union. But new problems became evident due to the uneasy relations between governmental and non-governmental actors as well as the withdrawal of many donor agencies from the region.
The rise of the far right
Around 2005, the influence of the feminist movement had visibly declined in face of the new conservative rhetoric stressing “tradition”, “protection of the unborn child” and criticism of “gender ideology”.
Today, fifteen years later, we see an ever-growing influence of Polish right-wing organisations, as demonstrated by investigative journalists that are linked to The American Society for the Defence of Family, Tradition and Property, and The World Congress of Families, and through them to the Putin’s allies, the oligarch Vladimir Jakunin and his wife Natalia.
When the right-wing party Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice) won the elections in 2015, they demanded a total ban on abortions to replace the already restrictive legislation. In March 2016, the committee “Stop Abortion” sent a petition to Parliament signed by almost half a million people to ban and penalise all forms of termination of pregnancy. It was supported by the Polish Catholic Church. In June that year the Government stopped the in vitro fertilisation programme.
A new mass-movement of women to protect abortion rights
However, the anti-choice initiatives triggered a reaction. Women started to organise on Facebook, and the left-wing party Razem (Together) organised demonstrations in many cities, to become known as the Black Protests. In April 2016, video footage appeared on the Internet showing women leaving church during mass when the anti-abortion letter of the Episcopate was read out.
The same month, as a reaction to the “Stop Abortion” petition, a counterproposal to liberalise abortion laws was submitted to Parliament with 400 000 signatures.
In September 2016, Krystyna Janda – a well-known actor in Andrzej Wajda’s movies about the Solidarity movement – made a reference on Facebook to the strike of women in Iceland in 1975. The call for a similar strike was expressed by the Black Protest activists.
On 3 October, the country-wide Strike of Women (Black Monday) took place. Women were protesting in more than 150 cities prior to the Parliament’s session on abortion. Three days later the Parliament rejected the Stop Abortion petition.
While the mobilisation of women indeed made it possible to stop the plans to further restrict abortion in 2016, fundamentalist organisations (including the so-called “Independence Marches” by extreme right groups) pressed on with their agenda.
The Government thus felt encouraged to further curtail women’s rights, including by withdrawing Poland’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention which aims at strengthening legal measures to prevent violence against women.
Again, these plans led to demonstrations by women. The biggest so far gathered some 90 000 participants on 23 October 2018 outside the headquarters of the ruling party, to protest another anti-abortion petition in the Parliament.
The scale of women’s protests in recent years has been unprecedented and sent shock-waves across Poland. These actions have been very different from the rather elitist and small movement of the 90s.
The movement today operates without many publicly known leaders and has no centre. Still, it has reached small towns and attracted many young people and individuals who never previously had identified themselves as feminists. The immediate effect has been substantial; the anti-abortion plans of right-wing groups have been stopped.
If women ruled, the far right would lose influence in Poland
The long-term effects of women’s mobilisation and their potential to further influence the political agenda in Poland are still unknown. But we know the results of the parliamentary elections in October 2019. While the same right-wing party (Law and Justice, Prawo I Sprawiedliwość) again won the elections, the numbers are interesting: if the results only depended on female voters, the opposition would have won, and the most extreme far-right parties would not have obtained any seats, (while they actually gained 7% of the seats).
In the opinion of female voters, the political priorities to be addressed by the Government should be climate change, health care and opposing rising nationalist movements.
Male preferences are the opposite. For the majority of men, the main challenge is to stop the attack on Polish families “led by the LGBT groups” and to combat “gender ideology”.
Regrettably, the mobilisation and activism of women in recent years has not been reflected in high positions on electoral lists. Political parties have thus not provided women opportunities to pursue their political goals. Still, the number of women in the current Parliament (28,47%) is higher than in the previous one, with left-wing parties having the highest number of women (42,85%).
Wanda Nowicka, a women’s rights activist from the 90s and vice-chair of the Polish Parliament in 2011-2015, stated when re-elected in October 2019 that “While in the past I was the only MP with a feminist agenda, there is now a large group of MPs who embrace the importance of women’s rights.” This understanding is now also more widespread in Polish society
According to the weekly magazine Wysokie Obcasy, 72% of Polish women support feminist demands.
I am convinced that the Polish Nobel Prize Winner 2019 is among the supporters.
Senior Gender Mainstreaming Expert at the European Institute for Gender Equality. Has also been Regional Gender Adviser at the Regional UNDP Office in Bratislava and Director of The National Women’s Information Center in Warsaw.
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References to the text:
Elżbieta Korolczuk, Beata Kowalska, Jennifer Ramme, Claudia Snochowska-Gonzalez, Bunt Kobiet. Czarny protest i Strajk Kobiet. ECS, 2019 https://ecs.gda.pl/library/File/nauka/e-booki/raport/ECS_raport_buntkobiet.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1tgETfHJymAfrlJ7YTgluOeFd9mbJa2i0Ahe2PnaXeg_toTMilgdYQNeQ
Tomasz Piątek, Ordo Juris i brazylijska sekta. Kim są obrońcy życia od samego poczęcia. Gazeta Wyborcza, 27 marca 2017. https://wyborcza.pl/7,75968,21554217,ordo-iuris-i-brazylijska-sekta-kim-sa-obroncy-zycia-od-samego.html
Wysokie Obcasy, Sondaż, 22 wrześni 2018. https://www.wysokieobcasy.pl/wysokie-obcasy/7,163229,23952656,tylko-5-proc-polek-uwaza-sie-za-feministki-choc-postulaty.html?disableRedirects=true