“Feminists for a Secular Europe” - Roma 31st of May /1rst of June 2008

IFE-EFI – European Feminist Initiative for another Europe

On Saturday May 31 and Sunday June 1 Took place a great feminist conference in Casa Internazionale Delle Donne – the International House of Women – in Rome.
The conference, entitled “Feminists for a Secular Europe”, was organised by European Feminist Initiative for another Europe. The purpose was to highlight the real influence of structures and religious ideologies upon the life of European women in each country, whether those religious structures are the majority or a minority in the given society.
The participants were all activists or representatives from different organisations working for women’s rights, human rights and secularism. Representatives from several countries such as: Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Iran come to this historical event in Rome to start a new movement together.

Most of the countries represented at the conference presented a situation analysis of either their country’s women rights situation or a general view of the rights of women and the role of religion in their lives as well as the States function in these cases. Many countries had the same situation but others like Poland had gotten worse over recent years.
The conference was opened with a speech by Anita Giurato (EFI Italy) who stated that it would not be possible to have true feminism without an attack on religion. In Italy 80% of the population are Catholic and the relationship between men and women seem to be governed by religion not just in Italy but along the Mediterranean basin. A campaign “Abortion NO Thanks” had made it worse for women to procure public abortions and that domestic violence was rising as well as church interference. Graziela Mascia (European left party) added to the opening remarks by pointing out that the Centre Right was funding religious schools. The Pontiff thinks that the churchs’ collaboration with the ruling party was a positive climate and this is testimony to the fact that women’s lives do not matter. There is need for a state that gives people choices in their lives. Lilian Halls French (IFE- EFI) in reiteration the meaningfulness of the conference stated religions were opposing the fundamental rights of women while Irma Barbarosa (Rete Feminista ) added to this by stating that there are no lift wing women members of parliament. This leaves a playing field for religious fundamentalism. The church threatens to disbar members of parliament unless the do the bidding of the Catholic Church. The church receives tax waivers and guarantees for advancement and upholding canonical law resulting in persecution of the HBT and prostitutes as well as upholding the law on abortion. There will be no PRIDE Festival as the church through the state has deemed it inappropriate. There is need to build a free public space free from religious interference and equality. Below is a summary of the country reports as well as other speeches.

A European manifesto for a secular Europe was delivered by the organizers at the end of the conference. The proposal stated demands concerning women’s rights. Separation of religion from the state and judiciary, prohibition of religious studies in public schools, establishment of secular education, and sex education in public schools, legalization of abortion and providing free abortion and contraceptive, stopping state funds to religious institutions.

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