Repeating Icelandic women’s strike against inequality, the majority of Polish women went on strike in October 2016. The Polish legislature tried to outlaw all abortion, with penalties of up to five years in jail for the woman in the Fall 2016. In response, over 60% of women surprised the government by going on strike on October 3, boycotting work and school, wearing black and carrying black flags in demonstrations in large cities. They chanted “Stop the fanatics!” and “My body, my choice,” “My Uterus, My Opinion,” and “Women Just Want to Have FUN-damental Rights.” One of the protesters explained, “You cannot change the world from your couch, you know.” “And a Millennial protester observed, “In previous anti-government protests, it was our parents’’ generation on the streets. But with this, they have managed to mobilize the young, and we are very angry.”[i] Many men joined in the protests and solidarity protests were held in other European countries and the US, seen in a video.[ii]
The Polish protesters were inspired by Iceland’s “Women’s Day Off” on 1975 when about 90% of women went on strike to protest economic inequality. Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski commented derisively, “Let them have their fun.”[iii] He added, “There is no such problem as a threat to women’s rights.” However, the ruling Law and Justice Party backed down three days later when Jaroslaw Gowin, Minister of Science and Higher Education, said the Black Protests “caused us to think and taught us humility.” The government was “scared by all the women who hit the streets in protest, ” said former female Prime Minister Ewa Kocacz.
[i] Christian Davies, “Poland’s Abortion ban Proposal Near Collapse After Mass Protests,” The Guardian, October 5, 2016.
[iii] Joanna Berendt, “Protesters in Poland Rally Against Proposal for Total Abortion Ban,” New York Times, October 3, 2016.