International Women's Day marches to protest Gulf War


Most of the marches and rallies in International Women's Day will express opposition to the war in the Middle East.

In Sydney, writes Margaret Mayhew, IWD promises to be the most angry and militant in years. Bush's war in the Gulf and the attendant rise in anti-Arab racism in Sydney suburbs (including attacks on women in traditional Muslim dress) are producing a heightened determination on the part of women to stand up against war, racism and sexism.

This year's theme, "Women United Against the War", has already been broadly publicised in a special eight-page newspaper, featuring contributions from Aboriginal, Palestinian, Jewish and Australian women.

In her contribution, Palestinian Rida Kassis points out: "There is a double standard here. The Iraqi presence in Kuwait has been rejected. The Israeli invasion of Palestine, expelling millions of Palestinian people and the massacres that followed that invasion, and continue to the present day, should be rejected even more."

Marta Romer, spokesperson for Jewish Women for an Independent Palestine, remarks: "So long as Israel claims the authority to speak for all Jews and continues to present itself as acting in the name of the Jewish people in international affairs, we must as Jews voice our opposition".

And Janet Fraser asks: "What of when the Gulf war ceases? Will life be any different for women? Women in Australia will still be earning only 65 per cent of men's wages; women in the United States will still be fighting for the right to legal abortion; the testimony in court of an Iraqi woman will still be worth only half that of a man's; little girls will still suffer clitoridectomy and genital mutilation in many parts of the world."

The Sydney IWD collective calls on all women to protest against the Gulf War. This year's march will start from Town Hall Square at 11.00 a.m. on March 9 and end in Hyde Park South for speakers and entertainment.

In the evening, the annual IWD Dance will take place at Paddington Town Hall to the sounds of famous Girls and Safari So Good.

Bronwen Beechey reports that the Melbourne IWD collective has chosen the theme "Stop the War on Women" for this year's rally and march.

The theme was chosen to express women's opposition to the Gulf War, racist attacks on Arab and Muslim women and government expenditure

on Australia's warships in the Gulf while women's services and welfare are cut. But it also relates to issues such as attacks on women's right to abortion, increasing levels of domestic murder, rape and other forms of violence against women and discrimination and harassment against lesbians.

To publicise the events planned for IWD and provide a forum for women active in the antiwar movement, a "Politics in the Pub" night was held on February 6. Speakers included writer and long-time peace activist Wendy Lowenstein, Elle Morrell from Secondary Students Against the Gulf War and Adrienne Barrett from the IWD Collective. Members of the recently formed Women's Peace Network called for women in the peace movement to actively publicise and build the IWD rally and march on March 9.

The theme for IWD in Adelaide, reports Rebecca Meckleburg, is "Women United Against War!" Activities this year include a march, festival and rally on March 9.

Speakers will contrast the Hawke government's war spending while social spending, affecting women the hardest, is being cut. Other speakers will promote solidarity with women in the Third World and discuss women and the environment, abortion and workplace equity issues. The day's activities will be followed by a dance in the evening at Waterside Hall in Port Adelaide.

Ana Kailis writes from Perth that racism, war and recession will be the major themes for IWD, summarised in the slogan "Stop the War on Women, Stop Racism". The IWD collective has seen the particular need to address the silent war that's being waged against Aboriginal Australians, as well as the need to highlight the crisis in the Gulf.

The collective is concerned that in times of recession, racism and sexism are used to scapegoat the victims of exploitation and hide the real causes of economic crisis.

On March 8 there will be a Multicultural Festival in Fremantle and on March 9 a march, rally and festival in Perth. Aboriginal women will lead the march through city streets. The festival, emphasising cultural diversity, will have a range of multicultural performers.

In Brisbane, reports Philippa Stanford, the IWD organising collective has decided on a theme of "Making Our Own Choices".

The format of IWD has been changed to include many workshops and film nights on issues of concern to women in the lead-up to the usual march and rally. On March 8 there will be performances, a women's market, skill sharing and discussion workshops. The day will end with a women-only dance.

For details of all IWD events, see page 23.