2018 was a year of mass action internationally to challenge women’s oppression.In Spain, on International Women’s Day, 5.3 million workers, including women and men, joined in a general strike against sexism and discrimination.

The shaming and blaming of women in a number of rape trials, most notably the so-called Ulster Rugby rape trial, has been met with outrage and thousands protesting on the streets of cities around Ireland and internationally, demanding fundamental change in the courts and calling for real sex education that talks about consent and LGBT+ sexualities.

5.3 million workers, both men and women took strike action on IWD last year

Working-class women in Brazil turned out to protest in opposition to the election of the proto-fascist Bolsonaro under the slogan #EleNao (“Not Him”). In the South, the anti-choice Eighth Amendment was repealed: a huge step in the fight for bodily autonomy and for the separation of church and state.

Sweeping our rights under the rug

In the immediate aftermath of the repeal victory, activists in ROSA – socialist-feminist movement initiated by women in the Socialist Party – publicly took safe abortion pills outside Belfast’s Laganside Courts. These were the same pills that were used to force Southern politicians to recognise the reality that abortions already take place in Ireland and a ban serves only to stigmatise women and, in some cases, to put their lives at risk. After a series of Westminster debates, politicians are still delaying decriminalising abortion in Northern Ireland.

ROSA says: Make International Women’s Day a mass protest

That is one of the reasons why ROSA has issued the call for International Women’s Day this year to be a day of mass action across Ireland for abortion rights, against victim-blaming, economic inequality and all forms of sexism. Last year, abortion rights were won south of the border, and the anti-choice Eighth Amendment became history. At the head of a confident, fighting mass movement for choice have been a generation of young and particularly working-class women, who have refused to tolerate the shameful legacy of a conservative Irish state under the influence of the church establishment.

International Women’s Day this year must be a massive protest, bringing together working-class people, activist groups and trade unions to win the right to choose. A united, cross-community and organised movement of women, workers and all the oppressed can not only challenge and repeal backward laws, but fight to transform society. It can win the fight for social housing to be built, to ensure no one is ever forced into homelessness or to continue living with an abusive partner.

We can win equal pay, not in twenty years nor in 200 years – the predicted time it would take the wage gap to close at the current rate – but now. We could end the disgraceful treatment of victims in trials of sexual crimes, with underwear styles considered as evidence of consent. Ultimately, a class-based movement can shatter the entire exploitative system of capitalism – and the sexism, inequality and oppression that come with it – and replace it with a socialist society planned for the needs of all and based on real equality.

by Eleanor Crossey Malone