Greece The new young and radical feminist movement, at the forefront of popular resistance!

What has happened over the past two years in Greece is worth dwelling on: never in the history of the country has the question of women’s rights made so much noise in the press, made the subject of heated public debate and has been at the center of political news.

It all started when the Mitsotakis government tried to align itself with the most reactionary and obscurantist neoliberal forces in the world, launching a frontal attack on the fundamental rights of women.

Fortunately, the resurgence of the women’s movement was quick to come and rose to the challenge! And that’s how it happened.

The case of the “unborn child”
Driven by the victory of New Democracy in the 2019 legislative elections, the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church has invented a day dedicated to “the unborn child” on the first Sunday after Christmas! According to his declarations, his decision was taken to protect the life of the unborn child and… to solve the demographic problem of the Greek nation!

36 years after the legalization of abortion in Greece – thanks to a very progressive law, obtained in 1986 after a hard fight of almost 10 years by the feminist movement – the Greek Orthodox Church has thus given the signal for an attack head-on against this hard-won right

A few days before New Year 2020 and the day dedicated to “the unborn child”, the cover of a sports magazine (!) caused a tsunami of indignation on social networks! The cover featured a large hand holding a small fetus in the palm of the hand, and underneath was written “let me live” in all caps.

Despite the backlash on social media, Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis (a notorious racist and former neo-fascist) was quick to praise the magazine, saying that having twice as many abortions (300,000 a year, according to his exaggerated assertion) that births in Greece would cause the country to lose almost a million children and pose a problem for the survival of the nation.

A few days later, giant billboards appeared in the Athens metro with the same message and the same moaning fetus: “Let me live!” And the paternity of this anti-abortion campaign has been claimed by a long list of fundamentalist Orthodox Christian associations…

But the retrograde and obscurantist Orthodox Church did not act alone, but received the support of many ministers and high officials. Following further public outcry, the Ministry of Transport quickly ordered the posters removed. But these attacks on the right to abortion were only the prelude to what was to follow.

Influenced by regimes like that of Orban in Hungary, the Mitsotakis government took a first step to give itself a pro-natalist profile and decided to rename the “General Secretariat for Gender Equality” -an institution also born out of second feminist wave- in “General Secretariat for Demographic, Family and Gender Policy”.

The return of paternal law
But other attacks were to follow. The New Democracy government has made its intentions clear by adopting a law on Joint Parental Authority in May 2021, modifying key articles of the Civil Code on family law.

This was a turning point for women and children, victims of domestic violence. This bill came after being championed for a long time by the very masculinist and aggressive, violent and vulgar neoliberal lobby of parents. The latter allied with the ND government on the basis of their common interests and around a familiarist discourse.

So, the government revised what was the quintessence of the still very progressive family law obtained in 1983. Well, this law was a real anti-patriarchal revolution because it replaced the right of the father-generator (paternal power ) by parental authority.

From now on, after the dissolution of the marriage, contrary to the law of 1983, the new law imposes compulsory joint parental custody, that is to say that the child is forced to spend a third of the time with the parent with whom he does not usually live, although he does not want to . Even when the father is violent, the will of the child is not taken into account. Because? Because to suppress the communication of a violent father, a definitive condemnation is necessary. It may take years or it will never happen, because going to court in Greece is difficult, it costs money, it costs a lot of stress, and women from single-parent families are fragile, vulnerable, poor and destitute, in a situation of incredible anguish, further accentuated by the austerity policies imposed in the name of the debt and the pandemic. ¡Todo esto means que un padre violento puede acosar, maltratar y disponer del niño a su antojo, pero también utilizar la ley para chantajear, acusar y quizás incluso criminalizar a las madres que simplye quieren proteger a sus hijos y arriesgar su seguridad y su vida to do it!

The bill was harshly criticized by Greek lawyers both for its legal weakness and for the violation of human rights and the Istanbul Convention that it implied. It was also rejected by all women’s organizations and the feminist movement, which had to face a hate campaign led by the misogynistic and rabid parenting lobby, supported by almost all the major media in the country.

When the law was approved by a majority – against the majority of opposition parties in the Greek Parliament – fans of the parents’ lobby celebrated it on social media and repeatedly issued physical threats against the judges. and the country’s prosecutors to enforce the law in favor of parents. For example, the group Equal Parenting Rights wrote:

We bring heavy artillery to justice, charging, priming and waiting! That those of our members who publish what is happening in our group, inform the Syndicate of judges and prosecutors that they are now in our target.

In short, these masculinist groups are becoming very dangerous: their anti-feminism, their culture of virility, the reconstruction of a hegemonic masculinity constitute ideological gateways to the extreme right and sooner or later they will act more and more violently, no only in their relationship but also in society.

The eruption of the Greek #MeToo and the awakening of consciences
The outlook is bleak, but in mid-January 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, more than three years after the emergence of the #Metoo movement in the United States, the Greek #MeToo burst onto the country’s social and political scene.

The Greek #Metoo was sparked by revelations of Sofia Bekatorou, 43, a two-time Olympic sailing medalist (gold and bronze), who publicly said she was raped at the age of 21 by a senior member of the Greek Federation of sailing. Addressing all women who have been sexually assaulted, she said: Break the silence, speak up!

Also this year, the Greek #MeToo outbreak has helped raise awareness among feminists about the most heinous form of gender-based violence, femicide. It was in November 2018, with the murder in Rhodes of Eleni Topaloudi, a 21-year-old student, raped, tortured by two young men and thrown into the sea while she was still alive, that the term “femicide” entered into common parlance. .

This year 2021 – especially this summer – there has also been a chain of murders of women at the hands of their partners throughout the country, from Athens to Thessaloniki, from Crete to the Cyclades. However, this time, the difference with the recent past is obvious: the media talk about it abundantly, tongues loosen, political parties break their usual silence and, above all, women take to the streets, feminists in the lead, to shout their rage and call for solidarity.

The resurgence of the feminist movement…
This is another example of the rebirth of feminism: in June, an advertisement called on women to… procreate, targeting in particular those who had aged and they were too preoccupied with their careers, thus neglecting their fertility. It was an advertisement for the “Panhellenic Fertility Conference”, which had the support of the Church, assisted reproduction societies, the “General Secretariat for Demographic and Family Policy and Gender Equality “, from the public broadcaster (ERT) and… from the President of the Hellenic Republic himself. But after further public outcry, President Katerina Sakellaropoulou was forced to withdraw her support for the conference and nearly all official attendees did the same…the conference was cancelled. It was a total fiasco.

In the end, the Mitsotakis administration was able to pass its joint custody bill — narrowly — but even the pro-government media admitted it was a pyrrhic victory. In fact, the resistance of feminists has caused problems even within the Council of Ministers and caused dissension within the New Democracy parliamentary group. It was the first time since its formation in 2019 that the right-wing government was going through a crisis and, by common consent, the person responsible for this absolute novelty was… the feminist movement!

The conclusion is not difficult: the year 2021 has seen the birth in Greece of a young, radical but also unitary feminist movement, which is already at the forefront of popular struggles against the Holy Alliance of neoliberal reaction and nationalist obscurantism. and Orthodox. This is an important, almost historic event in a conservative and confused Greek society, which continues to seek a left worthy of the name.

The sequel promises to be exciting…


Translation: Carlos Rojas for International Point of View

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