Feminism in Europe and reflections on Ireland’s abortion referendum


Last weekend, I spoke at the European Day/Journées d’été, in Strasbourg, France,  about my work on the Repeal campaign and my reflections on Ireland’s abortion referendum more generally.

The panel, ‘This is My Body’, was convened by Charlotte Soulary from the Green Feminism Commission and included fellow European feminists: Evgenia Giakoumopoulou, founder of the Advocacy Centre on Council of Europe Standards (ACCESS)Daria Marx founder of the Fat Political Collective; and Emmanuelle Josse from the Collective for Feminist Parenting.

Ireland is still celebrating our recent feminist triumph, and the overwhelming mandate received from the Irish people to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and to legislate for abortion services. It was clear from this panel’s discussion however, that women’s rights and women’s bodies are still very much a political battlefield across Europe.

According to Evgenia Giakoumopoulou, there is an emerging trend which is seeing far-right movements and religious political parties using gender ideology, paradoxically, as a means to restrict women’s rights. She gives the example of recent developments in Croatia and Bulgaria to renege on the Istanbul Convention – which aims to combat violence against women and domestic violence – with grassroots campaigns in those countries, which are being fronted by women.

Another trend that needs to be addressed, according to Daria Marx, is discrimination against body size. Though this form of discrimination can be targeted at everyone, women are particularly vulnerable through the emphasis that society and the media place on women’s body shape. Marx argues that more should be done from a political perspective to combat this and to make European societies safe for all to participate in without fear of discrimination.

Emmanuelle Josse wants to see more done to encourage a feminist approach to parenting. She argues that this needs to start with societal and political attitudes towards couples and individuals who want to start a family. In particular, work needs to be done right across Europe to legislate and provide for assisted reproductive services for all couples and individuals, regardless of their family status or sexuality.

Although Ireland’s recent referendum is being celebrated by feminists far and wide, Europe still has some way to go when it comes to women’s rights, and we must remember that, even in countries where abortion is legal, it is being challenged. You can watch the full panel (in English and in French) and my talk here with the speaking times listed below:

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