The third annual Women’s Marches across North America take place on January 19, and once again, millions will be in the streets. These marches are a powerful stand against gender inequality and misogyny, in direct response to the sharpening attacks against trade unions, women, Indigenous and racialized peoples, the LGBTQ2+ community and others targeted by Donald Trump’s regime and reaction in Canada. The Women’s marches are also an important day to unite against the divisive attempts by fundamentalists and transphobic bigots to derail the struggle for a truly inclusive women’s movement.
In nearly every capitalist country, the corporate attack on women’s equality gains has become a central piece of the assault against the working class and its allies. Across the globe, with a few exceptions, progress to narrow the gender pay gap, expand reproductive rights, and overcome poverty has hit major roadblocks. This trend has been ignored by mainstream media and politicians, who tend to focus mainly on revelations of sexist comments and assaults by individual politicians or executives, rather than exposing the underlying patriarchal, sexist, homophobic and transphobic ideologies which drive the wider anti-women agenda.
The Women’s March protests which began in 2017 can play a vital role in building stronger popular resistance. But a narrow focus on one-day annual protests is not enough. The tendency for top-down organizing and planning of these Marches also limits the scope of the emerging fight against the entire right-wing agenda of governments that protect the status quo and the corporate profits generated by women’s inequality.
Here in Canada, a crucial federal election is just months away. The defeat of the bitterly anti-equality Harper Conservatives in 2015 gave the so-called “feminist” Justin Trudeau an easy way to avoid real action on women’s equality issues. Despite Liberal rhetoric, the gender wage gap has barely budged, the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls has bogged down, and progress on an affordable national child care program is painfully slow. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are using anti-immigrant tactics to mount a political comeback, and the openly racist, misogynist and transphobic “People’s Party” plans to nominate candidates in every federal riding. This is a moment of extreme political danger.
The fight for gender equality – in Canada, and internationally – is not a side issue. Building a more powerful resistance against capitalist patriarchy is crucial to the strategy of uniting and mobilizing millions of people for social justice, full equality, Indigenous rights, and much more. In this situation, an annual day of marches makes a strong statement, but it’s no substitute for a broad, inclusive and powerful pan-Canadian coalition of equality-seeking groups, with the labour movement’s 2.5 million women members playing a crucial role. The sooner such a coalition is brought together, actively intervening to demand full equality rights, the better.
The women’s movement can count on the Communist Party to fight for women’s and gender equality rights before, during and after the 2019 federal election. The Communist Party of Canada will campaign for “Full Gender Equality NOW!”, including the following demands:
* Restore funding for women’s equality programs.
* Close the wage gap; legislate full pay and employment equity.
* Fully implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, including justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
* Guarantee accessible and publicly funded abortion and reproductive rights services in every province and territory.
* Create a pan-Canadian childcare program – universal, public, quality, affordable childcare with Canada-wide standards and union wages for childcare workers.
* Protect women’s right to EI maternity coverage; expand parental benefits to 52 weeks.
* End all forms of violence against women and provide adequate funding for crisis centres and transition houses.
* Repeal Bill C-36 – stop criminalizing sex workers!
* No to Islamophobia! End the wars in the Middle East, zero tolerance for Islamophobic and gendered violence, and increase immigration and refugee quotas.
* Repeal the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement, which disproportionately penalizes women fleeing poverty and violence.