Do not say 'Happy Women's Day'

One month ago we could all read about a new law in Russia which decreases the punishment for men who beat their wives and/or children. In other words, domestic violence was recently decriminalised in a country where presumably one woman dies every 40 minute due to domestic violence.

This news received a lot of critique from the rest of the world but now, one month later, it seems forgotten. Today, on International Women’s Day, it is time to remind ourselves not only about the situation of thousands of Russian women, but about the situation of millions of women around the world.

Today is the day we should talk not only about domestic violence, but also about pay gaps, sexism and rape culture. I hope that International Women’s Day will be erased from the calendars in the future - that it won’t be needed anymore. But until then, International Women’s Day is a day of remembrance, frustration, politics and anger. 

I recently did a collaboration with The Women’s Shelter of Malmo which is located in my hometown in Sweden. This photographic project was exhibited in October and aimed to raise prejudices we have against domestic violence. Let’s just face it: There is no typical victim or typical perpetrator. It can happen to anybody, regardless age, sexual orientation, origin or social background.

A huge amount of women came up to me at the exhibition and told me their own stories - or their friend’s, sisters’ or nieces’. It is one thing to present statistics of victims of domestic violence. It is another thing standing face to face with these women, who are indeed of different ages, with different origins and coming from different classes.

Sweden is argued to be one of the most equal countries in the world, and yet one in five women will be a victim of domestic violence sometime during their lifetime. 

Turning our focus to the UK, many councils are cutting services to support survivors of domestic violence. The movement Sisters Uncut claims that two women are murdered each week by their partner in England. And please acknowledge that the estimated number of unknown cases is huge regarding this matter.

Survivors increasingly have nowhere to go and no one to support them. Luckily, there are non-profit organisations and volunteers (read: heroes) to their rescue. But it isn’t enough. This matter should not lay heavy on the shoulders of volunteers, It needs to be dealt with once and for all.  

With this in mind: Yes, International Women’s Day is about embracing and empowering women, just like any other day of the year. However, do not think that you can get by by saying “Happy Women’s Day”, forgetting the many reasons why this day exists. You have to do more. We have to do more. Now. 

Words and photography by Fanny. You can find more of Fanny's photography on her website.