The 25th of November is an important day for women’s rights activists. That is the day the United Nations officially recognises as the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Dozens of organisations have used this as a starting point for a call to action in the 16 days between November 25th and December 10th: the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
For Femen, the fight for equal rights and resistance against gender-related violence continues all throughout the year. The controversial feminist group Femen is mostly known for their topless protests. Femen started in the Ukraine, but they have offices all over the world, including in the Netherlands (http://www.facebook.com/FEMENnederland).
Inna Sjevtsjenko, founding member of Femen, explains why they protest with bare chests. “In the Arab world, women’s bodies are hidden in sacks, while the sex industry wants us to be a lust object in a sexy outfit. We take our clothes off too, but not to give men what they want. Our beauty is on the inside. We will not be oppressed. We do what we want.” By protesting topless, Femen gets a lot of attention for their cause. They have protested against domestic violence and femicide, but also things like homophobia, abortion bans, the Catholic Church’s opinion on homosexuality, oppression of women in Islamic countries, prostitution, and sex tourism.
Femen also raises a lot of violence and protest from part of their audience. The last time Inna protested against neo-Nazi’s, she was beaten up and lost a tooth. Pauline, a full-time Femen activist, says that women’s bodies can handle a lot more pain than people think. “All our lives, we are told that we are brittle and fragile, but we’re not. We can probably deal with pain better than men. In my first six months as a Femen member, I was beaten up more than once, but I was surprised how much violence I could handle and still get up and keep going.” The Femen activists always say that the protests will not stop until the last camera has left.