Romania: March 8 protests- “Our womb is not for your profit”

Maria Luisa Guevara

2 public protests were held in the two main cities: Bucharest and Cluj, both of them were focused on defending access to abortion services, which is under threat because of privatisation and religious interference.

The 8th of March in Romania is usually celebrated with flowers; men offer flowers to the women in their lives; businesses offer flowers to their female customers; police officers stop women drivers in traffic just to offer them flowers. But beyond this apolitical celebration, two political protests took place in the two main cities: Bucharest and Cluj, both of them focused on defending access to abortion services, which is under threat because of privatisation and religious interference.

Indeed, despite abortion being legal, doctors refuse to perform for free abortions in public hospitals under the guise of religion, while some of them accept to perform them in private clinics for a fee (usually the amount of a month’s salary on the minimum wage). Moreover, religious groups have started interfering by opening “clinics” where women are advised against abortion using scaremongering tactics and disinformation about the procedure, its consequences, and other non-scientific arguments.

Manifestația feministă de 8 martie, din piața Victoriei, pentru drept la avort și acces la sănătate reproductivă: Uterul…

Δημοσιεύτηκε από Feminism Romania στις Τετάρτη, 8 Μαρτίου 2023

The protests were organised by a coalition of feminist NGOs and under the guise of the Bella Ciao melody, comrades chanted their demands for access to abortion services, to birth control and sex education in school. The demands were widened to include access to preventative healthcare for women, such as free HPV vaccines and tests and other sexual health prevention, as well as non-discrimination towards women from vulnerable backgrounds and ethnic and sexual minorities. Following the protest in front of the government building, the members of the NGOs went to the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice and other state institutions to present their demands to each institution. GAS was present at the Bucharest protest where we distributed informative leaflets explaining that access to abortion services is a social class issue. The leaflet explained that less and less women have access to abortion services, under the false pretence of religious arguments from doctors refusing to perform abortions in public hospitals, but which hides the real motive which is that of privatisation (there are twice as many abortions performed in the private sector compared to the public sector). The leaflet contained as well information about the history of IWD and a quote from Alexandra Kollontai.  

The protest in Bucharest in front of the Government building gathered 200-250 people, more than the usual 8th March events in the past years. The crowd was generally young and left-leaning; there were also a number of Erasmus students coming to support women’s rights – from France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and other countries. No incidents were reported this year compared to previous years when far-right or religious groups would do a counter-demonstration; however the lack of support and even opposition this year came from the ranks of the Left! Indeed, a number of prominent and less prominent male leftists, mostly in their 40s and 50s onwards, have criticised the protest for being too focused on abortion – which in their opinion is not a socialist concern, but rather a liberal conspiracy to pervert women and discourage motherhood. This shows that a certain section of the Romanian left, particularly those identifying with the Socialist Party continue to be socially conservative, patronising and subject to patriarchal notions. Nonetheless, younger male activists came to the protest and supported the demands, which is very encouraging and promising that the new generations of men on the Left are more supportive of women’s rights. 

Slogans:

“Our womb is not your profit” (Uterul nostru nu este vostru)

“Compulsory maternity = forced labor” (Maternitate obligatorie = munca forțată)

“Capitalism kills” (Capitalismul ucide → this is a play with words, based on a “classic” liberal slogan in the past years that reads “Corruption kills” and which is used in order to privatise public services).

“One woman falls, we all jump to help” (Cade una, sarim toate)

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